Bacterial synthesis of biodegradable polyhydroxyalkanoates


I. Radecka, School of Applied Sciences, University of Wolverhampton, Wulfruna Street, WV1 1SB Wolverhampton, UK.


Various bacterial species accumulate intracellular polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) granules as energy and carbon reserves inside their cells. PHAs are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and biocompatible thermoplastics. Varying in toughness and flexibility, depending on their formulation, they can be used in various ways similar to many nonbiodegradable petrochemical plastics currently in use. They can be used either in pure form or as additives to oil-derived plastics such as polyethylene. However, these bioplastics are currently far more expensive than petrochemically based plastics and are therefore used mostly in applications that conventional plastics cannot perform, such as medical applications. PHAs are immunologically inert and are only slowly degraded in human tissue, which means they can be used as devices inside the body. Recent research has focused on the use of alternative substrates, novel extraction methods, genetically enhanced species and mixed cultures with a view to make PHAs more commercially attractive.