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Cow Reactors Roundup

February 11, 2011

A new study of the bacteria in cow’s stomachs could help boost the production of biofuels.


Gas production from cows. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the journal Science, researchers report on a map of the genetic code of bacteria that live in cow stomachs. Why? Well, a cow’s rumen, or forestomach, may be the world’s best reactor for turning grass into gas—all thanks to trillions of bacteria, working tirelessly to produce enzymes that break down plant fiber. Turning plant material into methane, or natural gas, is exactly what scientists would like to do more efficiently, so we can grow more fuel and drill for less of it. The new research found 30,000 genes with the potential to improve biofuel production.

Also in the journal Science, researchers report that the anticancer drug Taxol may be useful in treating spinal cord injury. In laboratory rats, researchers showed that taxol reduced scarring and stimulated the growth of nerve tissue. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.