Narrator: This is Science Today. Biochemical
engineers at the University of California, Irvine
are working to clean up contaminated sites by genetically
engineering bacteria to degrade toxic compounds. Dr.
Thomas Wood's laboratory at UC Irvine, is focusing
on the bacteria near plant roots.
Wood: We're trying to encourage the bacteria
to degrade trichloroethylene into carbon dioxide,
which is chloride ions by giving these bacteria an
additional gene that allows them to degrade this compound.
Narrator: And with trichloroethylene, a faster
process is crucial since slow degradation results
in a compound which is even more toxic.
Wood: What we're trying to do is prevent the
trichloroethylene - the pollutant - from getting into
the groundwater. Now, over the world, there are wells
that have been contaminated and decommissioned because
they have trichloroethylene and there are estimates
that if you drink over your lifetime one part per
million of trichloroethylene, about thirty-two people
out of every hundred thousand would get cancer. So
it's not something you want to drink routinely.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.