Northeastern Section - 53rd Annual Meeting - 2018

Paper No. 34-23
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


ELKASSAS, Sabrina M., CHOI, Jessica and PÉREZ-RODRÍGUEZ, Ileana, Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania, Hayden Hall, 240 S 33rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Asbestos is widely used in manufacturing because of its excellent mineral properties, such as non-flammability, high tensile strength, and thermal insulation. However, at the antipode to its beneficial mineral properties are physical and chemical properties that are toxic to humans. Asbestos physically flakes into microscopic shards that can puncture the lungs if inhaled. Its iron content can also generate free-radicals in human cells, causing cancer via mutating biochemical reactions. This research aims at exploring the iconic microbe-mineral reactions of chemolithoautotrophic bacteria from deep-sea hydrothermal vents for bioremediation of asbestos hazards. Through enrichments and isolation of chemosynthetic microorganisms in the presence of asbestos minerals, we can begin to identify metabolic functions relevant to physico-chemical targets involved in asbestos toxicity. By selecting for chemosynthetic NO3- and Fe(III) reducers, we will evaluate 1) Si incorporation into biofilm material as a means to disrupt asbestos framework responsible for flaking and 2) respiratory Fe removal as a way to decrease asbestos free-radicalizing capabilities. If successful, these methods could decrease asbestos hazard, while potentially generating secondary raw materials for safe use in industry.