Bio-mining the Diversity of Deserts: A Biotech industry Goldmine

28/09/2015 - 3 minutes

Deserts can be either hot or cold according to their geographical location, leading to the evolution of extremophilic organisms which are adapted to withstand such hostile living conditions. Here, we explore some of the potential industrial biotech applications of desert microbes, from bioremediation of pollutants such as PCP, to the investigation of novel anti-cancer compounds.

New desert microbial strains are being discovered all the time by research teams across the world. Dubbed ‘extremophiles’, these have developed a tolerance to high salinity (i.e. halophiles), dehydration and drastic pH and temperature changes, which would otherwise kill non-extremophiles.

Adaptations that permit microbes to do this are attributed to a pool of enzymes, metabolites and biomolecules which are just waiting to be mined and exploited by the biotech industry. These natural and remote landscapes could therefore be the key to solving food agricultural issues caused by global climate change; such as the ‘desertification’ and drying up of arable lands.

In a pan-European collaboration, a team from Liebniz-Institut DSMZ (Germany) and the IFAPA in Seville (Spain) found a multi-tolerant Actinomycete bacteria on a marble outcrop in the Namibian desert.

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