Research moo-ves forward thanks to Midlothian scientists

Scientists at Ingenza,Roslin BioCentre working on the cow stomach research programme. The enzymes might hold the key to green fuel.
Scientists at Ingenza,Roslin BioCentre working on the cow stomach research programme. The enzymes might hold the key to green fuel.

Midlothian scientists are investigating how cows’ stomachs could hold the key to green fuel.

Roslin-based researchers from life science firm Ingenza and ARK Genomics are in a three-way collaboration with Professor John Wallace of the Rowett Institute, Aberdeen, to examine the enzymes from the microbes living in the stomachs of cattle and other ruminants.

It is thought the enzymes could be used industrially to break down the tough internal structures of plant and tree matter, which are used to create products such as biofuels.

The resulting chemical reactions could be used to create sustainable alternatives to petrochemical derived products such as fuel, commodity chemicals and fine chemicals.

Ingenza scientists and Prof Wallace hope to identify enzymes found in cud chewing animals which allow them to digest these complex structures.

Prof Wallace is to make a presentation on the subject at a technical showcase, being part hosted by the Scottish Agricultural College, today (Thursday).

If the study is successful, Ingenza would use its own production systems, such as yeast, to mass produce the enzymes for industrial use.

Ingenza president Dr Ian Fotheringham said: “People have been trying to unlock the energy in plant and tree matter for years but our approach recognises how nature has already successfully done that.

“If we can identify novel enzymes that allow ruminants to break down these tough structures and then replicate them on a large scale, the possibilities for more sustainable and renewable industrial practices are enormous.

“Society is starting to look towards how greener practices can contribute to economic growth and more sustainable living in a meaningful way – this project could be a real step towards that.”

The technical showcase will display the latest developments in the SAC’s pioneering work including the new GreenCow facility at Easter Bush. One of the other hosts is Roslin-based Rumens and Ruminants Interest Group.