Researchers reveal that digestive ability of ancient insects can provide new insights into future biofuel production, according to a study conducted on February 22, 2018.
According to the researchers, some insects have the ability to digest cellulose efficiently and this can be used for industrial processes such as low carbon fuel production, which will help in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions caused due to the use of fossil fuels. This was found when the research team was studying about the digestive system of firebrats.
Professor Simon McQueen Mason said that firebrats are part of a primitive group of insects and it was in the Devonian Period that these insects came into existence. He also added that the strength required for the cell walls of plants is provided by the fibers formed from cellulose. These fibres are solid and tough due to the high degree of structural order it has. The effective method of digesting cellulose observed in firebrats was a mystery till now. Scientists were surprised while observing the digestive system of these insects.
A group of uncharacterized proteins were found inside the gut of these firebrats and the carbohydrate digestiveenzymes present in their body had 20 percent of these proteins. Further studies were conducted on these uncharacterized proteins and they were found to be a new class of enzyme called as lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs), which has the capability of attacking crystalline polysaccharides. The study also found that firebrats use these enzymes for increasing the cellulose digestion rate.
Earlier, the occurrence of these enzymes were only found in fungi, bacteria and viruses, however, this study showed that they can be found in many invertebratesIn industrial processes, these enzymes can be used for the production of biofuels by breaking down cellulose into fermentable sugars. In future, there is scope for this method to increase the growth of advanced biofuel market, as detailed in the advanced biofuel market report published by Coherent Market Insights.