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Algae Genetic Engineering

August 24th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Genetic Engineering

Algae genetic engineering simply means engineering the DNA of these algae to improve their abilities to yield oil. Genetic engineering finds its application on many aspects of algae, especially on biofuel algae.

There is a need for algae engineering because the problem we are facing right now is that one algal strain is very unlikely to have all the characteristics required for biofuel production, hence there is a huge need to modify those strains to make them efficient enough to yield oil. The best way to do this is to identify strains with desired traits.

For example: Genetic engineering approaches such as identification of pathway regulation will prove very useful to increase lipid yields, thereby resulting in higher oil production. This can be accomplished by deciphering more about the regulation of algae lipid metabolism and carbon partitioning under different growth conditions.

To sum up, the following points clearly highlights the need for algae engineering towards biofuel production:

  1. Requirement for genetic modification on an accelerated time frame to modify strains to make them efficient enough to produce oil.
  2. To produce high levels of  a desired molecule.
  3. To fit harvest and fuel recovery requirements.

Many companies such as Synthetic genomics, Solazyme, Sapphire energy, Seambiotic are working on genetic engineering of algae. It seems as if only genetic engineering is the solution as there are lot of issues to select a strain or rather even find a strain with all attributes. However, I am not convinced when I think about ruining mother nature by bringing about such strains and what if these strains escape to the environment?? are there any measures to control it?

Some of the algae strains whose genes are extensively studied include:

  • Chlamydomonas. reinhardtii
  • Volvox carteri (green alga)
  • Cyanidioschizon merolae (red alga),
  • Osteococcus lucimarinus and Osteococcus tauris (marine pico- eukaryotes),
  • Phaeodactylum tricornutum (diatoms).

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