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Starch from Cellulose

May 8, 2013

Cellulose, an indigestible material found in all plants, can be converted into healthy, edible starch.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

From useless to nutritious. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Cellulose, or plant fiber, is the most abundant organic compound on earth. Unfortunately, only termites and ruminants, like cows, can digest it. But now, bioengineer Percival Zhang and his colleagues at Virginia Tech have found a way to convert cellulose into nutritious starch. Zhang’s method uses several enzymes to break down cellulose – from any plant source – and reassemble its components into a starch called amylose.

PERCIVAL ZHANG (Virginia Tech):

And this process is pretty simple.

HIRSHON:

Zhang explains that if fuel costs and the global population continue to rise, so will the cost of food. He says this technique could not only provide cheap nutrition to hungry parts of the world, but could also be useful in processed foods, since the resulting starch is both high in fiber and reduces the risk of obesity and diabetes. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Dinner? Cellulose from corn stover left over from farming could be converted to digestible amylose starch. (Royalbroil/Wikipedia)