In comparison to most plants, cyanobacteria are simple and easy to work with—after all, they can be grown in glass tubes. However, there is a lot that is still unknown about them, and as such, they’re the focus of a great deal of research. Dr. Ben Long received his PhD in plant biology from La Trobe University in Australia where he spent time as an undergraduate and post-doctoral student studying cyanobacteria and trying to identify all the compounds they produce. In particular, he’s looking at the type and quantity of toxins and other bioactive compounds they produce and what can be learned about these compounds. For example, just within the last several years, cyanobacteria have been shown to produce an amino acid that may play a role in neurodegenerative diseases.
Dr. Long brings a wealth of interesting information to the conversation on today’s podcast, detailing cyanobacteria biochemical reactions previously thought to be nonexistent, discussing the difference between the way plants and cyanobacteria fix carbon dioxide in the environment, mysterious toxins called microcystins produced by cyanobacteria, the photosynthetic efficiency of C4 plants, and the application of cyanobacteria compounds in bioreactor work, such as the ability to produce oils from them that could be used as a form of fuel.
Tune in for the full conversation and learn more by searching for RIPE photosynthesis on the web and visiting http://photosynthesis.org.au.