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Scientists Are Learning How To Use Bacteria to Produce Specialty Biochemicals

Scientists Are Learning How To Use Bacteria to Produce Specialty Biochemicals

Think about all of the food that ends up in your household trash or down your garbage disposal. Now imagine the vast amount of food waste like coffee grounds or tomato pomace generated by big food manufacturers.

From seeds and stems to grains and fibers, these manufacturers are generating tremendous volumes of food waste every day. Manufacturers have learned that they can recycle, reuse, and compost some organic waste, but it costs money to store and transport it.

In other words, going green isn’t exactly a financial boon.

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Until now, that is.

Thanks to advances in biotechnology, organic biomass waste can now be transformed into natural versions of valuable specialty chemicals used as flavorings, fragrances, and colorings, replacing the petroleum-based chemicals that are currently found in over 95% of everyday products.

Consumers are demanding an alternative to petroleum-derived chemicals. This cry has created a desperate need for manufacturers to satisfy the requirement, making naturally-derived chemicals an incredibly lucrative industry.

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“Chemicals have traditionally been made through non-eco-friendly processes that are anything but natural—in fact, they’re typically derived from petroleum,” said James Stephens, co-founder, and president of Blue Marble Biomaterials, which manufactures all-natural biochemicals. “Blue Marble has developed and deployed technologies that produce drop-in replacements that are kosher, vegan, certified GMO-free, and compliant with stringent U.S. and E.U. labeling standards.”

So how exactly does this technology work? Let’s explore in more detail exactly how businesses are converting their biomass waste to valuable specialty biochemicals to reap big profits:

Bacteria break down organic waste into commercially valuable natural chemicals

At the heart of the biotech advances that have enabled this breakthrough is bacteria. Scientists have figured out how to use certain types of bacteria from nature under certain controlled conditions to break down organic waste and transform it into highly desired portfolios of natural chemicals, including esters, carboxylic acids, thioesters, and sulfur compounds. These specialty biochemicals are used as flavoring agents for foods, to add color to beverages like soda pop, to give texture to your granola bar, and so forth.

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Scientists are learning how to use bacteria to produce more and more specialty biochemicals

Each specialty biochemical produced from organic waste is made by feeding certain types of raw materials to certain types of bacteria. For example, Blue Marble Biomaterials this year created an all-natural, vegan bacon flavoring by repurposing organic waste like coffee grounds and the discarded skin, pulp, seeds, and stems of tomatoes and grapes. “It’s the flavor and aroma of bacon—from plants,” as Colby Underwood, Blue Marble co-CEO, and chief business officer puts it. All of these biochemical creations are the result of years of research and testing; the production processes are patented and top-secret.

Biochemical startups are teaming up with companies that produce lots of organic waste

Any industry that produces large sums of organic waste–including the agriculture, food, beverage, and forestry industry–is a great candidate to team up with a waste-to-value company like Blue Marble. Blue Marble can embed its operations inside the facilities of existing food and beverage companies. Through this mutually beneficial arrangement, Blue Marble is able to maintain future access to a consistent supply of raw materials, which are converted on site. The final specialty biochemical products can be sold for top dollar.

The market for natural biochemicals is exploding

Chemicals are traditionally produced by large corporations like Dow Chemical, where they’re derived from petroleum. These so-called “petrochemicals” end up in an endless supply of consumer goods, from chewing gum to dog food to skin creams to clothes. However, as consumers increasingly demand natural products and to know the sourcing of the materials that make up these products, petrochemicals just can’t cut it. By contrast, biochemicals made from all-natural bacterial processes are organic and can be fully sourced. Hence, the demand for these chemicals is exploding.

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These processes are eco-friendly

Not only are the end-product specialty chemicals all-natural, but the processes used to make them are eco-friendly as well. Biochemicals made from organic waste are produced using “green chemistry” processes. These processes provide a sustainable alternative to traditional chemical manufacturing, as they reduce environmental pollution and curb the production and use of hazardous substances.

As the demand for eco-friendly, all-natural chemicals explodes, more and more businesses are realizing there’s untapped monetary value in their organic waste. The natural alternatives to commonly petroleum-derived chemicals are made from this waste, and they are kosher, vegan, organic, certified GMO-free, and compliant with stringent international labeling standards for natural products.

But this isn’t the end. Scientists are developing new pathways and technologies orbiting around how to harness the power of bacteria to produce more and more types of these lucrative biochemicals.

In other words, natural bacon flavoring isn’t the only product that will be affected. It is only one of millions of products that will be transformed by switching from environmentally-damaging chemicals derived from crude oil to natural, sustainable versions of these chemicals that have a positive impact on our planet–and our livelihood.

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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