Beacon Transcript – Scientists are wondering what could be the possible consequences of carbon silicon bonds as research has managed to bond two elements which did not mix naturally.
The new research results were published last week, on Thursday, in the Science journal. The team of scientists to have managed the breakthrough are part of the California Institute of Technology Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.
Life of Earth is based exclusively on carbon, but scientists have long since been intrigued by another element, which is silicon.
Although silicon comes in abundant quantities, currently, there are no known living organisms to have naturally combined the two elements.
Previous studies have managed to create carbon silicon bonds, but until now, the process had not been obtained naturally.
That is set to change as the new study revealed to have come up with an innovative, revolutionary technique.
According to the scientists working on the project, their technology leads to the creation of carbon silicon bonds by urging silicon to bond naturally with carbon.
This new technique could mark a breakthrough in terms of human engineering and life as its utilities are quite wide and varied.
The natural bond was obtained by using a method which has come to be called directed evolution.
In order to obtain the connection, scientists mutate cytochrome c, an enzyme which catalyzes the carbon silicon bonding process.
Cytochrome c is a natural enzyme which can be found in the Icelandic hot springs in an extremophile bacterium.
Extremophile organisms usually live, as the name suggests, in extreme geochemically or physical conditions.
The cytochrome c was proven to be 15 times more efficient in creating the carbon silicon bonds as compared to the synthetic catalysts used in other studies.
Jennifer Kan, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral student, stated that the natural enzyme is simpler, better to use when compared to the other synthetic products.
According to Kan, the genetically encoded, iron-based catalyst is both easier to modify, cheaper, and is also non-toxic. Cytochrome c-based reactions can also be obtained in water and at a room temperature.
Directed evolution in itself is not a new concept as it was first invented and used in the 1990’s.
Since then, the technique has come to be used in order to create better enzymes. In turn, these enzymes had a commercial use as they led to better food or fuel supply sources.
However, this has been the first experiment to use the technique in order to create carbon silicon bonds.
Silicon has a similar structure to carbon as it can also form into four bonds. This makes it a potential building block for new life forms as the four bonds can unite and create long molecule chains.
As carbon silicon bonds were believed to be if not impossible in nature, at least hard to obtain, this new experiment opens new, interesting paths.
With the new technology having possible implications and future utilizations in the pharmaceutical industry, it also revealed an even more important fact.
The naturally obtained carbon silicon bonds have shown that nature is more adaptable than we thought. It could also open the road as it started raising new questions towards the possibility of silicon-based life forms.
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