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Dandelion rubber

By Chemical Engineering |

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME; Aachen, Germany; http://www.ime.fraunhofer.de) have genetically engineered Russian dandelions to make it easier to extract the plant’s milky latex. The scientists identified the enzyme responsible for the rapid polymerization that occurs when dandelions are first cut, and switched it off. As a result, four to five times more latex can be obtained. If cultivated on a large scale, every hectare would produce 500–1,000 kg of latex per growing season, says IME. Dandelion rubber — produced during World War II by Americans, Russians and Germans — has not caused any allergies so far, making it ideal for use in hospitals. This “new” rubber may also become important if the fungal infection afflicting South American and Southeast Asian rubber crops reaches epidemic proportions, causing a collapse of the natural latex industry, says IME. For large-scale production of dandelion rubber (as well as other chemicals produced by the plant, such as inulin, a natural sweetener), the researchers are working to cultivate the engineered dandelion using conventional breeding techniques. This effort will take about five years, says IME.   Click…
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