What do cows and termites have in common

As explained by Bryan White, a professor of animal sciences and a member of the Molecular Bioengineering of Biomass Conversion and Host-Microbe Systems themes at IGB, cows and termites both digest plant cell walls—cows specialize in grasses, of course, and termites in wood. That makes them both “ligno-cellulosic deconstruction systems.

Identifying the most efficient mechanisms for breaking down plant cell walls would solve a major bottleneck in the development of biofuels. Cows and termites, or more precisely, enzymes from microbes in the cows’ and termites’ digestive systems, can provide some insight.

Although biofuels are much in the news these days, there are several obstacles blocking their viability. The first involves identifying a plant substrate that does not compete with a food source (like corn does) and delivers enough energy per unit to be economically produced.

The next step is to quickly, inexpensively, and efficiently break that plant material into something that can be fermented.

To learn more, see Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.

Tuesday, October 03 2017
Source: https://www.igb.illinois.edu/article/bryan-white