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Bioreactor boosts chemical fermentation by 50 percent: study

animal cell culture, tissue engineering, and waste water treatment. Since 1998, Yang and his colleagues have used the device to make large quantities of a protein -- Developmental Endothelial Locus-1 Protein -- for cancer research. A commercial company recently licensed the technology for agricultural applications.

Yang designed the bioreactor as a three-dimensional alternative to the flat petri dishes and trays that scientists traditionally use to culture cells. The fibers anchor living cells in place as they grow and reproduce.

For this latest study, the engineers grew P. acidipropionici in a sugar solution, and gradually adjusted the sugar concentration so the cells would tolerate -- and produce -- higher concentrations of propionic acid. Tests yielded an average of 72 grams of the acid per liter. The bioreactor also produced 52 percent less succinate and 14 percent less acetate -- two chemicals that industry normally has to remove from the fermentation mix before the propionic acid can be used.

When Yang and Suwannakham examined the cells from the bioreactor, they found that the cells had mutated and changed several key enzyme activities. Production of enzymes for propionic acid formation had increased, and the enzyme for succinate production had decreased.

Aside from giving Swiss cheese its characteristic smell and flavor, propionic acid is often used as a preservative and flavor enhancer for a wide variety of cheeses and baked goods.

In the chemical industries, it's used as an ingredient for dyes, perfumes, pharmaceuticals, herbicides, rubber, and plastic.

With today's growing emphasis on organic or "all-natural" products, Yang sees a market for propionic acid made without chemical additives in the bioreactor. "A company could conceivably market a product as being made with 'all-natural' propionic acid," he said.


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Contact: Shang-Tian Yang
Yang.15@osu.edu
614-292-6611
Ohio State University
29-Mar-2004


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