UCLA scientists discover fuel-producing microbes
Cheaper, less-polluting replacement for gasoline
WESTWOOD, Calif.—Scientists at UCLA have discovered a way to force certain microbes to produce protein that can be refined into biofuels, which may unlock the doors to cheaper, less-polluting replacements for gasoline.
In a study published in the journal "Nature Biotechnology,'' the UCLA team said their discovery could unleash a new universe of fuel-producing microbes that eat naturally-occurring proteins that are otherwise unfit for animal consumption.
As a side benefit, a new type of fertilizer could be developed that would use less nitrogen, dramatically reducing harmful greenhouse emissions generated by the production of fertilizer, the researchers said.
Dr. James C. Liao said current biofuel production is based on plants or microbes that generate fats, oils or carbohydrates that can be refined into biofuel. His team's work concentrates on tricking microbes into eating protein and using the resulting energy to generate specific other proteins that can be refined into fuel.
"This research is the first attempt to utilize protein as a carbon source for energy production and biorefining,'' Liao said. "Complex cellular regulation in nitrogen metabolization had to be rewired.''
Yi-xin Huo, a UCLA postdoctoral student and lead researcher, said the challenge is to trick microbes into using protein for creating fats or other substances that can be refined into fuel, rather than simply producing more protein—also known as growing. "We have to completely redirect the protein utilization system, which is one of the most highly-regulated systems in the cell.''
The scientists are working to take ammonia out of individual cells, allowing the cells to keep their nitrogen. "Our strategy effectively recycles nitrogen back into the biofuel production process, thus approaching nitrogen neutrality,'' Liao said.
"Growing algae to produce protein is like putting the interest back to the principal,'' he said.
LOS ANGLES, Calif. — In a major case of academic poaching involving crosstown rivals, USC has lured away two prominent neuroscientists from UCLA with a promise to expand their internationally renowned lab, which uses brain imaging techniques to study Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, autism and other disorders, it was reported today.
Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Laurence “Larry” B. Frank has been named as the new president of Los Angeles Trade-Technical College by the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees.
Frank will assume his duties on July 1, 2013. The downtown Los Angeles community college serves 27,000 students each year with a primary focus on career-technical education. The board of trustees approved the selection at its regular meeting on May 1, in what was termed “a rigorous search guided by LACCD Chancellor Dr. Daniel LaVista.”
The South Los Angeles Power Coalition will host its third annual South Los Angeles People’s Convention Dinner on the Economy and Education tonight from 6-8 p.m. at the Juanita Tate Community School, 123 W. 59th St., Los Angeles.
The event will bring together more than 100 South Los Angeles residents and community activists to develop a collective vision around the economy.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The City Council celebrated the 12th annual Jackie Robinson Day in Los Angeles today, three days before the 66th anniversary of his breaking baseball’s color line.
A bio-pic on Robinson, “42,” also opened this week.
“There’s a lot of energy out here because of the movie that’s out, but the energy has been here all along,” Councilman Ed Reyes said.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Steve Alford was introduced today as UCLA’s head basketball coach, saying accepting the job was a “leap of faith” for him and his family, but the allure of the university’s storied basketball tradition was hard to pass up.
“When a place like UCLA calls — when you think of excellence and when you think of college basketball at its pinnacle, it’s UCLA basketball,” Alford told reporters in Westwood.