Most know the role of photosynthesis in absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2). And, while there is no doubt that plants are doing their job, there’s simply just too much CO2 for plants to absorb and “fix.” Plus, one of the main enzymes involved in the process simply doesn’t work that fast. But, according to recent developments, helping will be provided by a team of researchers led by Thomas Schwander.
In a study published in Science, the researchers detail how they managed to create a synthetic pathway that converts CO2 into organic compounds faster than plants. In order to find an enzyme to improve CO2 fixation, 17 enzymatic compounds from nine different organisms were selected carefully by the researchers . These were engineered together using stepwise optimization to form a synthetic pathway that converts CO2 into organic molecules.
Though not yet implemented in a living organism, high-resolution mass spectrometry showed in vitro that the new pathway could capture CO2 at a rate faster than the Calvin Cycle that naturally takes place in plants.
Once this technology is successfully transplanted into living plants, we could be in for faster, less energy-intensive CO2 fixation. Its applications would be wide and might include developing systems to create carbon-based feed for cattle, and maybe even designing advanced chemical products. The obvious impact of this technology is better CO2 processing, which could contribute to stabilizing its presence in our atmosphere. And, as climate change continues to threaten our health, well-being, and future as a species on planet Earth, the creation of new and inventive ways to combat the excess of CO2 in our atmosphere are essential.