Polyurethane degrading organisms discovered in Amazon rainforest

Organisms in Amazon rainforest fungi that can degrade polyurethanes have been discovered by Yale University students, as featured in the journal “Applied and Environmental Microbiology.” According to the researchers this discovery could lead to innovative ways to reduce landfill waste. As part of Yale’s Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory Course, the undergraduates gathered endophytes found in rainforest plants and took them back to New Haven to test for biological activity, to check what medical or other uses might be possible. While other agents can degrade polyurethane, the enzyme identified by Yale students holds particular promise because it also degrade plastic in the absence of oxygen — a prerequisite for bioremediation of buried trash.
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