Psychrophiles for all
Psychrophile-flavoured ice cream
However, psychrophile bacteria are not the only ones to be of interest to industry. The numerous properties of krill, the tiny cold-water shrimps from the Southern Ocean, have also been adapted in every possible way: food (in particular, an oil rich in omega 3), cosmetics (face creams, etc.), medical and pharmaceutical (anti-inflammatory agent, prevention of immune rejection reactions, etc.).
Bye-bye calf intestines
Besides industrial applications, psychrophiles can also prove to be very useful in molecular biology. Thanks to the properties of alkaline phosphatase among other things. “A very well known enzyme”, confirms Georges Feller. “For instance, if you want to insert a gene into a plasmid, you have to open it first. However, plasmids automatically close, almost like a reflex. Hence, the solution is to eliminate a phosphate group using an alkaline phosphatase. Up until now, this was calf-intestinal alkaline phosphatase. The difficulty was then getting rid of it so that the plasmid could close once the gene had been inserted. This was a very complicated operation. Then emerged the idea of using an alkaline phosphatase sensitive to temperature and therefore easy to eliminate; it is marketed under the name Antarctic Phosphatase.”
It is a fact, psychrophiles can be used in a multitude of applications. A quick look at the Bioprospector.org
website (online database with a list of all the different patents,
goods and companies who are studying the genetic resources of Antarctica
and the Arctic) should be enough to convince you. There is also
bioremediation, where microorganisms are used to decontaminate
environments polluted in winter, many medical and pharmaceutical uses
(research into new antibiotics, anticancer drugs, elaboration of
neutraceutical products, etc.), and research concerning veterinary
medicine, fish farming, cosmetics, etc.