The cure for contaminated soils in the Region, in the Tucuman jungle

The cure for contaminated soils in the Region, in the Tucuman jungle

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The remedy to cure the contaminated soils that spread in the areas surrounding the Petrochemical Pole was hidden in Tucumán. So say the results of an advanced scientific project carried out by researchers from the Regional Center for Genomic Studies (CREG) of the Faculty of Exact Sciences of La Plata, who in the yunga (mountain jungle) of Tafí del Valle found microorganisms that have the natural property of degrading hydrocarbons.

Today, development is in the laboratory phase. In the future, the objective of the scientists is to come up with a product that residents who live in the most critical places can use to clean up their lands. In the new building of the research center that stands behind the Faculty of Natural Sciences, and in the process of moving, the director of the project, Christina Mc Carthy, dates back to January 2011. “We traveled northwest, to Salta and Tucumán, with the aim of exploring different types of extreme environments in order to see what was there and what could be used to clean up contaminated soils, ”says the young scientist, who works side by side with fellow Deborah Colman.

They went in search of microorganisms that could help them eliminate or minimize the effects that hydrocarbons from the activity of the Petrochemical Pole cause on the soils of the area and, therefore, on the health of the population. “The most critical areas are found in Berisso and Ensenada, especially in the neighborhoods near the canals. There are convincing studies on the subject ”, says Mc Carthy, although it does not invade the field of geologists and returns to the project they are carrying out at CREG. the finding clarifies that they addressed “extreme environments in both directions, that is, in richness and aridity”. Until at an altitude of 2,000 meters, in "the yunga of Tafí del Valle, we took the soil samples in which later, in the laboratory, we found the hydrocarbon degrading bacteria", he says. Strange? “Very strange”, the researcher almost exclaimed, to explain that “they were in a clean, pristine environment”, she emphasizes. So in a place that preserves its primitive, original properties, where contamination does not even appear, the scientists of La Plata found the possible remedy for one of the most attacked places in the world. “Needless to say, in their area of ​​origin, these microorganisms were not expressing that capacity; They didn't use that feature ”, Christina graphs. Asked about how a soil sample is extracted and transferred, she said that "the litter, the pebbles are cleaned, and then the first 5 to 10 centimeters are lifted from the surface, which is placed in sterile bags," he said. Those bags reached the CREG laboratories, where "the total DNA of that sample was extracted, made up mostly of bacteria, fungi, viruses, archaea (microorganisms" only similar "to bacteria), arthropods (insects, arachnids) , plants and fish sequences ”, he listed. "We use second-generation sequencing", Mc Carthy explained, explaining that "it is a study methodology that provides the most information on the organisms present in a sample." And so they discovered the hydrocarbon degrading ‘Tucuman bacteria’. It was time to take the investigation to the next step. What did isolation consist of? “In isolating these bacteria to observe how they function in a contaminated environment; to know how efficient they are when they are in the presence of the hydrocarbons that they have to degrade ”, he pointed out, to remember that in Tafí del Valle“ they did not use that property ”. It was then that they began to work together with a group from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Biochemistry of the UBA that is dedicated to "bioremediation of soils contaminated with diesel in Antarctica." “What you do is put a bit of that soil from Tafí del Valle in the middle of a crop whose power source is hydrocarbons; in this way you force the microorganisms to survive ”, he indicated, and emphasized:“ A microbial consortium could already be isolated ”. There is still a way to go. But the results are more than promising.

The day

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