Give me that CO2 - I'm hungry

Even with growing awareness of climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions are still climbing. In recent years, scientists have worked to apply advances in synthetic biology toward some of our most pressing environmental challenges, such as how to reduce global CO2 levels.

Researchers hope to tap synthetic life-forms to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide, or CO2, into food, fuel and organic chemicals that humans can use. But many previous attempts, like a 2016 effort to synthesize sugar from CO2 in bacteria, have seen limited success.

In a study published Wednesday in Cell, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel report that they have created a strain of E. coli that eats CO2 for energy, rather than organic compounds like sugars and fats.  

And while the study comes with a major caveat — the process currently produces more CO2 than it consumes — the research team hopes their work can provide a foundation for carbon-neutral energy sources in the future.

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