Thursday, June 8, 2017

Now, the Biological Equivalent of Ice-9 in Plastic-Eating Worms #Science

This image shows a wax worm chewing a hole through plastic. Polyethylene debris can be seen attached to the caterpillar.

Credit: Federica Bertocchini, Paolo Bombelli, and Chris Howe

Researchers in Spain and England recently found that the larvae of the greater wax moth can efficiently degrade polyethylene, which accounts for 40 percent of plastics. The team left 100 wax worms on a commercial polyethylene shopping bag for 12 hours, and the worms consumed and degraded about 92 milligrams, or roughly 3 percent, of it. To confirm that the larvae’s chewing alone was not responsible for the polyethylene breakdown, the researchers ground some grubs into a paste and applied it to plastic films. Fourteen hours later the films had lost 13 percent of their mass—presumably broken down by enzymes from the worms’ stomachs.

When inspecting the degraded plastic films, the team also found traces of ethylene glycol, a product of polyethylene breakdown, signaling true biodegradation. Their findings were published earlier this year in Current Biology.

Scientific American:  Plastic-Eating Worms Could Inspire Waste-Degrading Tools

Ice-9 is made up of a type of molecule which freezes and turns all other water around it into Ice-9 so they freeze yet more water.  In a short time, all the world's water freezes and this glorious vision came to us in "Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut Jr, the American God of Satire.

We have a similar situation with the plastic-eating worm since they say it will be used only in industrial applications and that type of application has worked, oh, so well for containing oil leaks so that bug is going to escape to where it can eat more plastic and make more bugs.  The effect in humans will be most noticeable when various Hollywood personalities deflate from "Baywatch" to "Bowling for Dollars."

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