From Berkeley Lab: “Berkeley Lab Scientists Develop New Way to Study Inner-Workings of Algae Cells”

Berkeley Lab

Molecular transporter could advance development of algae-based biofuels, pharmaceuticals

August 20, 2012
Dan Krotz

That green muck you see on a pond’s surface is one step closer to becoming a solar-powered source of some of the stuff you use everyday. Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Stanford University have developed a way to send molecules and proteins across the cell wall of algae, a feat that opens the door for a new way to study and manipulate these tiny organisms.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

In recent years, algae have become a hot prospect as a way to synthesize biofuels, chemical building blocks, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and other useful compounds. The idea is to engineer algae to secrete fuel for your car or other compounds using sunlight as an energy source and carbon dioxide as a carbon source.

But before scientists learn the best ways to harness the power of algae, they must first gain a better understanding of what happens inside algae cells. They must also learn how to optimize the inner-workings of algae for the production of biofuels and other applications.

Now, Berkeley Lab scientists have broken the algae barrier. They’ve shown that a specially developed molecular transporter can deliver small molecules, and larger molecules such as proteins, through the cell wall and membrane of certain species of algae.”

See the full tantalizing article here.

Proof that it works. In the left microscopy image, obtained during a control experiment, a green fluorescent tracer called fluorescein is not delivered inside algae cells when the tracer is only mixed with the molecular transporter. In the right image, fluorescein is successfully delivered inside algae cells when it’s covalently linked to the molecular transporter. (Image courtesy of Parvin lab)

A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California


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