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Bacteria found in Uyuni desert in Bolivia enables manufacturing of natural plastics

Three researchers from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya open up path to production of non-petroleum plastics for drugs, food supplements and packaging.

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02.09.2013

By Biocat

Three researchers from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya-BarcelonaTech (UPC) have successfully isolated and manipulated a bacterium from the Uyuni salt desert (Bolivia) to produce a biodegradable, biocompatible biopolymer called PHB. This discovery, which includes microbiology, biotechnology, chemistry and materials engineering, is a step forward in valorizing the production of natural non-petroleum plastics for packaging, food supplements and drug nanospheres (antibiotics and anti-inflammatories).

The research is part of the doctoral thesis by Alejandra Rodríguez, co-directed by researchers Marisol Marqués of the Department of Optics and Optometry and Margarita Calafell of the Department of Chemical Engineering with collaboration from scientists at the Technical University of Graz (Austria). One of the aims of the work was to research possible applications of PHB as a controlled drug delivery system. According to Rodríguez, "previously there was very little information about this possibility with the PHB-doxycycline system. We’ve experimented with doxycycline, which is an antibiotic used to treat diseases like periodontitis, that sometimes causes intestinal disorders."

To avoid these side effects and target the infection with an effective concentration of the drug, “we have encapsulated it in a biocompatible, biodegradable PHB sphere."

The applications of this research don’t end there. Proof that the new Bacillus megaterium uyuni S29 bacterium grows in environments with an extremely high saline content also opens the door to industrial valorization of wastewater with high concentrations of salt.

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More information is available on the UPC website.

Margarita Calafell, Alejandra Rodríguez and Marisol Marqués at the Terrassa Campus - Photo: © UPC.

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