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Why Escherichia Coli an important tool in Biotech Industries
The bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) are one among the other microorganisms constituting the micro flora of the gut of the warm blooded animals including humans. These are called as beneficial microorganisms which are harmless. But the infection caused by a particular strain of E. coli (O157:H7) masks the beneficial effect of the normal E. coli bacteria and it is always seen as an organism of threat by many. Actually speaking the unique characteristics of the E. coli bacteria makes them an important tool in biotechnology industries and it is the most preferred organism by the researchers to perform recombinant technology (gene cloning) based experiments.

Scanning the unique features of the bacterium making it important in the field of biotechnology answers the query on its significance. The simple genome of the E. coli bacteria, the rate of growth, easy to handle, complete gene sequence, the competency as a host, simple cultivation procedure and its ability to grow under both aerobic and anaerobic condition distinguishes this bacteria from others in selection procedure for an experiment.

The genome of the E. coli bacteria is very crisp and simple with only 4400 genes, easy to study and understand. The ability of the bacteria to multiply drastically producing a generation in 1200 seconds under suitable growth condition dragged the attention of the researchers. Coming to the safety in handling the organisms, except for the particular harmful strain (O157:H7), the normal organism from the flora of the gut is safe to handle under suitable microbiological environment. The first completely sequenced genome is an additional feather in the cap of E. coli making the bacteria easier to use in recombinant DNA technology which involves nothing but the ultimate expression of proteins. Also the competence of the E. coli bacteria as a host for foreign DNAs and simple laboratory procedure to cultivate and adaptability to both aerobic and anaerobic environment made the E. coli bacteria a pioneer in the field of biotechnology.

Even before the application of the rDNA technology, the first industrial application of E. coli being the production of the amino acid threonine in the year 1961 just by exposing the organism to mutagens resulting in various mutants which were screened for the desired type of mutant enabling the synthesis of the amino acid threonine and those organisms were isolated and used for large scale production.

The process of gene cloning in E. coli involves series of steps like isolation of the desired DNA and ligasing it to a suitable vector resulting in the production recombinant molecules. These molecules are screened for the expression of the desired gene and then the selected molecules are passed on to the E. coli which express the desired gene. The types of vectors used may be either a plasmid or a cosmid or a phage and the various methods which allow the vector to enter the bacteria are transformation, transfection and transduction. Thus the genetically modified E. coli bacteria made its way into industrial biotechnology.

The genetically engineered E. coli bacteria were employed in the production of human insulin by successfully introducing the human gene responsible for insulin production into the gene sequence of the E. coli bacteria and cultivating the modified bacteria under suitable laboratory environment. Then the insulin is extracted from the cells and purified and used in humans. Also human growth hormone is produced using genetically modified E. coli bacteria.

Also there is evidence of biofuel production by using the genetically modified E. coli. The ability of the modified bacteria to convert the cellulose structure into sugars is the theory behind the production of biofuel using E. coli. The ideal character of genetically modified E. coli in producing hydrogen was discovered by a Texas scientist and he applied this principle in generating a fuel cell and proving E. coli as a house of power generation.

The fully identified gene sequence and the ability to make the gene construction in the vectors directly and a very good transformation rate of E. coli are the salient features enabled scientists to develop specific antibody molecules which will be a promising field to humans on extension.

In an effort to lower the production cost, genetically engineered E. coli were used as an alternative method in the production of the amino acid tryptophan with wide medicinal application. Also scientists from Cambridge University are on their way in developing a bio sensor E. coli to detect the presence of toxic elements in water and air. Also by extending this research, they promise the use of genetically engineered E. coli (called as E. chromi) in identifying various diseases like cancer and stomach ulcer by 2039.
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The bacterium E. coli is popularly called as the pet of the scientists.

The current significance on the variety of global energy sources, while minimizing the fossil fuel consumption, has sited new interest on hydrogen as an alternative fuel and its production through bioconversions that are mediated by microbes. Escherichia coli (strain ZF1) are currently being used in the production of hydrogen under anaerobic growth conditions.

Genetic engineering of plants also utilizes Escherichia coli. They are often used to generate numerous copies of a gene construct that is finally transferred into a plant.

Microbial colonies of E. coli are grown deliberately to form images as they are fast reproducing and generally harmless, that is images are made by simply painting a petri dish with E. coli and allowing it to grow called as microbial art. Scientists have also engineered the jelly fish DNA to E. coli making them glow and utilizing as a photo paper.

E. coli transcriptor has been developed by the researchers utilizing DNA and Enzymes. This is a potential step towards building working computers within living cells (Bio-Computers) that could be programmed to control gene expression in an organism.

E. coli are used to generate cancer-fighting drugs. One of the projects manipulated E. coli microorganism to carry an enzyme that fights cancer. Researchers are also working on a method of nanobots that would contain E. coli programmed with instructions to attack cancer cells, so that when a nanobot finds a tumour, it is able to dispatch speedy bacteria to call the other nanobots to it.
E. coli are engineered to generate biodiesel as a potential means of generating renewable energy. The genetic makeup of E. coli cells are manipulated to produce biodiesel derived from fatty acids. It is generally accepted that producing fuel from food sources such as corn is not very worthy as it is too costly and it competes with our sources of food. One of the alternative ways is to alter the E. coli cells to make it overproduce fatty acids, which are utilized in the production of biodiesel.
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