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Genecks

What if I could digest cellulose?

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Let's say I could make the same enzymes that other animals/bacteria do in order to digest cellulose. In general, would that cause my body any harm?

 

Let's say I make some transgenic mice that produce cellulase and cellobiose... Is anything going to go wrong? Can those mice eat wood? What about a bug? Is this a surface area issue, which might involve villi? Do you think I could make a transgenic bug that can eat and digest wood? I'm aware some bugs use gut prokaryotes already, but I'm thinking of what would happen if the animal/bug had the enzymes.

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To my knowledge, no animals can digest cellulose themselves and rely on microbes to do that for them. Typically, they have some sort of "fermentation vat" in their digestive system for this to happen.

 

If humans were able to digest cellulose, that would probably be very bad. We currently don't eat much cellulose and fiber helps clean out our digestive system.

 

Now if we had an animal that could digest cellulose directly, that could be very useful. As it is, the bacterial "middleman" takes a good bit of the energy, and also in some species produces methane, which is another energy loss and a greenhouse gas.

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To my knowledge, no animals can digest cellulose themselves and rely on microbes to do that for them. Typically, they have some sort of "fermentation vat" in their digestive system for this to happen.

 

If humans were able to digest cellulose, that would probably be very bad. We currently don't eat much cellulose and fiber helps clean out our digestive system.

 

Now if we had an animal that could digest cellulose directly, that could be very useful. As it is, the bacterial "middleman" takes a good bit of the energy, and also in some species produces methane, which is another energy loss and a greenhouse gas.

 

I'm slightly under the belief that humans never got the chance to evolve and do such. Thus, there is a mutualistic relationship with bacteria. I suspect if some taxonomic studies were done, perhaps there are animals that feed on cellulose more than others. Maybe there are some advanced mechanisms.

 

Maybe if a person were to biohack such a mechanism into an organism, I suspect finding a way to move the food through the intestinal tract while digesting cellulose would be key.

 

Urochordates are the only animals that produce cellulose

- DOI 10.1007/s00427-003-0379-8

- The evolutionary origin of animal cellulose synthase

Development Genes and Evolution

 

Maybe there is more to this issue. Seems like that knowledge was found in the past decade. Perhaps more research will uncover more knowledge.

Edited by Genecks

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Now if we had an animal that could digest cellulose directly, that could be very useful. As it is, the bacterial "middleman" takes a good bit of the energy, and also in some species produces methane, which is another energy loss and a greenhouse gas.

 

Okay, this is just speculation and half-asleep musing BUT: isn't it useful that the bacteria get some of their energy from something that we can't digest on our own? Otherwise they would be 'taking energy away from us', thus making the system less efficient.

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