Cellulose

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folmerveeman
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Cellulose

Postby folmerveeman » Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:07 pm UTC

Why haven't we found a way to digest cellulose yet? Wouldn't it allow more energy gain from less food and thus make our food more efficient?
Cows digest it by having bacteria split it up into smaller sacharids, can't we isolate those bacteria and use them to enhance the food?

Or am I just talking complete nonsense here..

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Izawwlgood
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Re: Cellulose

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:10 pm UTC

Cows have four stomachs, and have to chew their cud for hours to digest it.

Also, the amount of food cows have to eat, and the time they spend to digest it, is like whoa.
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folmerveeman
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Re: Cellulose

Postby folmerveeman » Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:19 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Cows have four stomachs, and have to chew their cud for hours to digest it.

Also, the amount of food cows have to eat, and the time they spend to digest it, is like whoa.


Yeah but when you isolate the bacteria you could just put some cellulose-rich food with the bacteria a few hours before dinner. You can't take the time it will take as a bad thing in this case, I'm talking about the possibilities at all :)

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Velifer
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Re: Cellulose

Postby Velifer » Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:36 pm UTC

Have you ever seen what's in a cow's abomasum?
Anyway, This is how I digest cellulose:
Plant --> bacteria in cow's first 3 stomachs --> cow --> steak, medium rare, with a dot of herbed butter.

I would think it's more pleasant than a mastigophoran enema.
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folmerveeman
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Re: Cellulose

Postby folmerveeman » Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:20 pm UTC

Velifer wrote:Have you ever seen what's in a cow's abomasum?
Anyway, This is how I digest cellulose:
Plant --> bacteria in cow's first 3 stomachs --> cow --> steak, medium rare, with a dot of herbed butter.

I would think it's more pleasant than a mastigophoran enema.


Eating meat is horribly inefficient, I know you meant it as a joke but still :)
(I'm not a veggie, don't worry!)

And the processed (by the bacteria) cellulose would just taste sweet, as it would just consist of mono- and disacharids.

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Re: Cellulose

Postby Mr_Rose » Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:23 pm UTC

folmerveeman wrote:
Velifer wrote:Have you ever seen what's in a cow's abomasum?
Anyway, This is how I digest cellulose:
Plant --> bacteria in cow's first 3 stomachs --> cow --> steak, medium rare, with a dot of herbed butter.

I would think it's more pleasant than a mastigophoran enema.


Eating meat is horribly inefficient, I know you meant it as a joke but still :)
(I'm not a veggie, don't worry!)

And the processed (by the bacteria) cellulose would just taste sweet, as it would just consist of mono- and disacharids.

The thing is, most people intake unprocessed cellulose in the form of whole fruit and vegetables - predigesting those with bacteria will cause people to not want to eat them.
And making eating things "more efficient" is actually a terrible idea; too many people today already get too many calories in too little volume, leading to all manner of health problems.
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Re: Cellulose

Postby nash1429 » Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:56 pm UTC

Cellulose plays an important role in digestion: the fibers stimulate glands in the intestines that secrete mucous, allowing refuse to pass through smoothly. Basically you get to choose constant constipation or slightly less available energy.

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Re: Cellulose

Postby folmerveeman » Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:02 am UTC

D:

Well never mind then

It was a good idea while it lasted..

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nash1429
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Re: Cellulose

Postby nash1429 » Wed Jun 23, 2010 5:06 am UTC

It would be a good idea if you can find some other polymer to take the place of cellulose. I don't imagine cellulose is particularly tasty though, it would probably serve as an emergency food supply.

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Tass
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Re: Cellulose

Postby Tass » Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:42 am UTC

Cellulose in our food is called fiber. We get to little of that already.

Cutting up cellulose with bacteria or enzymes would make sugar. We get to much of that already.

Now making sugar of cellulose is not a bad idea, because sugar can be made to ethanol and ethanol makes you drunk can be used as fuel.

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Re: Cellulose

Postby idobox » Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:32 am UTC

You can actually make alcohol with wood. It tastes horrible, and often isn't even safe to drink (it used mainly for industrial purpose). But it's still better than getting fat and constipated.
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Ulc
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Re: Cellulose

Postby Ulc » Wed Jun 23, 2010 9:02 am UTC

idobox wrote:You can actually make alcohol with wood. It tastes horrible, and often isn't even safe to drink (it used mainly for industrial purpose). But it's still better than getting fat and constipated.


Ehm, doing that you usually get methanol - not recommended at all.

Chances are that you'll end up severely poisoned, and should count yourself lucky if it merely results in permanent blindness.
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Re: Cellulose

Postby Velifer » Wed Jun 23, 2010 1:16 pm UTC

Aww, what's a little Jake Leg for science? (Blame the reckless avidity for intoxication notoriously exhibited by scientists.) I don't know if formaldehyde filled eyeballs is better than being fat.

Dietary fiber isn't just cellulose. It's mostly lignin, with some other stuff like chitin, etc. Some of it does get broken down by bacteria in the gut, I'm not sure how much of that we then absorb, what with our tiny little vestigial cecum.
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Re: Cellulose

Postby idobox » Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:22 pm UTC

Ulc wrote:
idobox wrote:You can actually make alcohol with wood. It tastes horrible, and often isn't even safe to drink (it used mainly for industrial purpose). But it's still better than getting fat and constipated.


Ehm, doing that you usually get methanol - not recommended at all.

Chances are that you'll end up severely poisoned, and should count yourself lucky if it merely results in permanent blindness.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellulosic_ethanol
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Re: Cellulose

Postby PM 2Ring » Fri Jun 25, 2010 5:56 pm UTC

Ursula K LeGuin Dave Smeds wrote a short story, Termites, about GE human gut bacteria that could digest cellulose. The idea was to stop faminine in Africa. It didn't work so well. The African population exploded & they chopped down all their trees.

The major cellulose-breaking bacteria generate methane. Because of this, Earth's population of cows & termites produce vast quantities of this potent greenhouse gas.


Edit: Oops! Sorry about the wrong authorship attribution.
Last edited by PM 2Ring on Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:48 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

Virtue
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Re: Cellulose

Postby Virtue » Fri Jun 25, 2010 6:27 pm UTC

Were this the case then all you'd have to do is figure out a mechanism to connect your anus to a collection apparatus to harness the new and improved power of your methane farts. This methane can then be used to heat your home, or play childish pranks, thusly further improving your digestive efficiency!

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Re: Cellulose

Postby Velifer » Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:09 pm UTC

PM 2Ring wrote:The African population exploded

Since cellulose does tend to produce some flatulence, the mental imagery here was... messy.
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nash1429
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Re: Cellulose

Postby nash1429 » Sat Jun 26, 2010 3:07 am UTC

Thought: can humans metabolize beta-glucose in the first place?

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Re: Cellulose

Postby alexh123456789 » Sat Jun 26, 2010 6:52 pm UTC

nash1429 wrote:Thought: can humans metabolize beta-glucose in the first place?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glucose wrote:The α and β forms interconvert over a timescale of hours in aqueous solution, to a final stable ratio of α:β 36:64

Agent_Irons
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Re: Cellulose

Postby Agent_Irons » Sun Jun 27, 2010 6:10 am UTC

I'm actually interning in a cellulose breakdown lab, where we try and develop a plasmid containing all the genes to produce the enzymes that dissolve cellulose and its associated friendly proteins. They're down to 8, last I heard. End goal is plug and play wood-eating functionality.

folmerveeman
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Re: Cellulose

Postby folmerveeman » Sun Jun 27, 2010 8:06 pm UTC

Agent_Irons wrote:I'm actually interning in a cellulose breakdown lab, where we try and develop a plasmid containing all the genes to produce the enzymes that dissolve cellulose and its associated friendly proteins. They're down to 8, last I heard. End goal is plug and play wood-eating functionality.


Is that.. for realsies?

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Re: Cellulose

Postby Agent_Irons » Sun Jun 27, 2010 10:04 pm UTC

folmerveeman wrote:
Agent_Irons wrote:I'm actually interning in a cellulose breakdown lab, where we try and develop a plasmid containing all the genes to produce the enzymes that dissolve cellulose and its associated friendly proteins. They're down to 8, last I heard. End goal is plug and play wood-eating functionality.


Is that.. for realsies?

The IGB deconstruction lab at the U of I. I'm not directly involved in the project (I do programming!) but it is pretty cool.
http://www.igb.illinois.edu/

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Velifer
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Re: Cellulose

Postby Velifer » Mon Jun 28, 2010 12:35 pm UTC

Agent_Irons wrote:End goal is plug and play wood-eating functionality.

I'll have the ent steaks, medium rare, please.
(I assume the goal is biogas?)
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Re: Cellulose

Postby aliceinbubbledream » Mon Jul 05, 2010 5:53 am UTC

I believe there is a way or kind of intake bateria help us do the abosorption processes, but I also do believe we human have a very different system as cows. we need cellulose to remove all the bad stuff in our intestines and stomach.right? Or the damage or loss to digest the molecules of the bondings can bring use more than the benefits. :D

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Re: Cellulose

Postby thoughtfully » Tue Jul 06, 2010 4:00 am UTC

aliceinbubbledream wrote:we need cellulose to remove all the bad stuff in our intestines and stomach.right?

You've been watching too many of those "detoxification" infomercials. The stuff they peddle is pure snake oil, a fraud. At the best, you'd get the same effect from a bran muffin or bowl of oatmeal for a fraction of the cost, without encouraging the pseudoscience wackos.

It isn't even clear that the benefit is really there, after all!
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folmerveeman
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Re: Cellulose

Postby folmerveeman » Tue Jul 06, 2010 4:40 am UTC

Velifer wrote:
Agent_Irons wrote:End goal is plug and play wood-eating functionality.

I'll have the ent steaks, medium rare, please.
(I assume the goal is biogas?)


The end goal was being able to eat stuff like grass. Some plants are very rich of minerals and vitamins, that's why.

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Re: Cellulose

Postby BlackSails » Tue Jul 06, 2010 5:00 am UTC

You want to transfect people?

Good god, you are a mad scientist!

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Velifer
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Re: Cellulose

Postby Velifer » Tue Jul 06, 2010 12:16 pm UTC

folmerveeman wrote:The end goal was being able to eat stuff like grass. Some plants are very rich of minerals and vitamins, that's why.

But I eat grasses all the time. I even drink them (after suitable digestion by Saccharomyces). Gnawing on a bolus of Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue just can't compare.
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