Can A Bacterium Generate Electricity? Yes, They Can!

작년


Source - Pxhere

It's been too long. For the past 6 months or so, I have to bear a constant, chronic pain which radiated pretty much throughout my body but now, I'm healthy as a horse. Thank god. I thought, 6 months ago, this would be the end of me but as I can see it now, I have managed to survive and learn something. I will write a detailed post later about my diagnosis and maybe put in some scientific and statistical fact regarding the condition. Today, I'm going to talk mostly about bacteria. As I've missed a lot of things, I'm quite surprised to see Steem price has dropped significantly. Last time, I remember it was somewhere around 4-5 dollars but now it's only a few cents. Tough luck but I'm pretty sure it will increase sometimes in the future, not sure when though.

Anyway, for those of you are not quite familiar with bacteria, I have written some articles regarding the subject and I'm pretty sure there are a few authors on this platform which have been entailing different things about bacteria in their own article. We have a lot to be thankful for especially when we know about the potential of certain bacteria to make us live longer while maintaining a good health; I think I've said it last time, it's pretty much futile to have a long life but filled with suffering from diseases and such; we're trying to focus on the quality, not only the quantity.

In our guts, we have trillions of bacteria that are potentially crucial to our physiological needs. Some bacteria help in preventing diseases, some help in digesting food particles to optimise health and I'm sure, we haven't discovered the function of quite a number of it. Can you imagine? We have trillions of different bacteria in the guts but in a few articles, there were only like 7 to 8 proposed mechanism of action that a particular bacterium possessed to operate in our gut. It's reasonable to assume that we are going to need a lot of research to learn of their potential, either good or bad, and mould it into something that we can use.


Source - Pxhere

2 days ago, while scrolling down through the Nature publication site, I stumbled upon an article which is freshly posted by its author, entailing some information regarding the capacity of certain bacteria to generate variable degrees of electricity in which most of them can be found in our gut. The process of generating electricity while carrying out physiological processes was termed extracellular electron transport (EET). The study focused on a single pathogenic bacteria (to mammal) called Listeria monocytogenes and its electrical potential was measured by using electrodes aided by a few growth substrates which seem to multiply the capability of such bacteria to produce electrical current.

It's pretty much a difficult paper to be understood by laymen, such as myself, but the most important point is I'm still contemplating its capability of being the primary source of electricity, somewhere in the future. Each bacterium might have different potentials or structures which would allow them to produce electricity, in this example, Listeria monocytogenes were found to have at least 8 genes associated with its capability to produce electricity by using a method called forward genetic screening. This would allow them to produce a specific type of coenzyme which would allow the electron transfer to be segregated from the aerobic respiration process.

After reading through the publication, I've come to a conclusion that, the capacity of a bacterium to produce electricity might have depended on its capability to cause harm to a human host. Listeria monocytogenes might be benign for people with an intact immune system, but they were quite deadly with people who have an immature immune system (like babies who are less than 6 months old) or are immunocompromised. We might have been surprised by their capability to produce electricity that electron transfer has been a thing for them for a very long time mostly to provide themselves with energy or anything essential for surviving. Listeria monocytogenes, for example, use electron transfer mainly to provide themselves with energy and sometimes, if the condition was unfavourable, they would breathe in oxygen and use them to generate energy. Quite sophisticated for a micro-sized machine, won't you say?


Source - Pxhere

How difficult for a bacterium to generate electricity would depend on a variety of factors; one of them being whether a bacterium is a gram-negative or gram-positive. I've covered some of the details regarding different kind of properties for different kind of bacteria but it has been ages ago. Maybe I will write more about it when I have time. To make it simple, let's imagine, gram-positive bacteria have one layer of cell wall while gram-negative bacteria have two. This would make it difficult to transfer electron out in the gram-negative bacteria so technically speaking, they must have a more sophisticated electron transport system or they just have a lousy capability to generate an electrical potential. Previous researchers hypothesized that what's making it possible for this electrogenic bacteria to transfer electron thus producing electricity is a cascade of proteins which has been aiding electron transfer throughout the layer.

The latest research has been carried out using Listeria monocytogenes, gram-positive bacteria which could possess a much simpler electron transferring mechanism. The tricky part is trying to determine after the electron has been transferred outside, where does it go? In the previous research, it was concluded that the reason why our gut has so many bacteria is due to the tendency of vitamin B2 or Flavin to be deposited on the surface of the human's gut. The research conducted by Samuel et al have found that other than being important for bacteria to get a constant supply of vitamin B2 to survive, they also speculated that this particular vitamin is important for a bacterium to generate a specified amount of electricity.


Source - Pxhere

Now, it is important to remember that flavin can be found free-floating in the environment. Of course, we can't make use of them but there are a lot of microorganisms which gets their own supply of flavin through this mean. Although the mechanism by which this electrical potential can be produced is currently not known, we do know that even with the simplest bacterium to the one who has been fermenting foods inside of your gut, each and every one of them could generate a different kind of potential and probably by a different set of genes. The only way to determine which gene was responsible for this action is to study mutated-form of bacteria. Through this means, we can observe whether we can enable the same gene across all bacteria to produce the same desired effect; they must exert some kind of physiological beneficial effect, don't they?

It still too early to conclude anything but if future studies can successfully produce a much better result, bacteria might be used as a much efficient form of biological sources to produce electricity. Well, I'm not an expert, but that's how I understand it. Thank you for reading.

References and further reading materials


  • Yasemin Saplakoglu. The Bacteria in Your Gut Produce Electricity. Retrieved September 14, 2018, from LiveScience
  • Samuel H. Light. A flavin-based extracellular electron transfer mechanism in diverse Gram-positive bacteria. Retrieved September 14, 2018, from Nature's Article

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Hello, it was a big challenge to read the original paper, and I want to point out some details that were a bit vague:

I'm still contemplating its capability of being the primary source of electricity, somewhere in the future

No. The idea is a century old and it was more about the catchy title than about practical battery. It could be used as a biosensor or similar.

were found to have at least 8 genes associated with its capability to produce electricity by using a method called forward genetic screening. This would allow them to produce a specific type of coenzyme

To avoid misunderstanding, forward genetic screening is not a method to produce coenzyme, it was the experimental workflow o understand what is going on:

Forward genetics (or a forward genetic screen) is an approach used to identify genes (or set of genes) responsible for a particular phenotype of an organism. Reverse genetics (or a reverse genetic screen), on the other hand, analyzes the phenotype of an organism following the disruption of a known gene.

Than you said

I've come to a conclusion that, the capacity of a bacterium to produce electricity might have depended on its capability to cause harm to a human host. Listeria monocytogenes might be benign for people with an intact immune system, but they were quite deadly with people who have an immature immune system (like babies who are less than 6 months old)

It's not from the original research, but from the LifeScience and it was not in the context of electricity.

To make it simple, let's imagine, gram-positive bacteria have one layer of cell wall while gram-negative bacteria have two. This would make it difficult to transfer electron out in the gram-negative bacteria so technically speaking, they must have a more sophisticated electron transport system or they just have a lousy capability to generate an electrical potential.

Well, our cells have none... It's not the right dirrectionwhen thinking about this topic

vitamin B2 to survive, they also speculated that this particular vitamin is important for a bacterium to generate a specified amount of electricity.

The more they eat the more electrons need to pass. Electrons are analogues to our exhaled CO2, or poop. It's expected...

From the original study:

To determine whether flavins could be used as electron shuttles, we tested the effect of exogenous riboflavin, FMN and FAD on EET activity. Injection of FMN into an L. monocytogenes- inoculated electrochemical chamber resulted in a pronounced increase in electric current

could generate a different kind of potential and probably by a different set of genes

Not really, because it's the final result is nothing but a chemistry

Through this means, we can observe whether we can enable the same gene across all bacteria to produce the same desired effect; they must exert some kind of physiological beneficial effect, don't they?

Very, very brave...

·

Thanks for the feedback @alexs1320. Apologize for the late reply, I was readmitted into the ward for 7 days. Tough week indeed. As I'm a novice in research and all, I tend to misunderstand/mistranslate some information, I need to reflect on that.

Wow, so far that was one of the best and most in depth scientific articles I read here so far. Thank you :) Will follow for more.

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