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Newsline-International | April 2015

Green blue jeans development

A University of California-Berkeley professor is using molecular biology to synthesise an important dye used to colour denim.
Professor John Dueber, Department of Bioengineering at Berkeley is understanding the natural pathway in indigo plants and trying to mimic the dye synthesis in the laboratory. In nature, a precursor called ´indican´ which results in the dye is covered by a sugar coating. When the sugar coating is broken, the coloration happens.
According to Berkeley´s Bakar Fellows feature, Professor Dueber´s laboratory has identified the enzyme that is responsible for the sugar coating in indigo plants. The researchers plan to synthesis the dye using bacteria. By inserting the gene that is responsible for the sugar coat enzyme and using other additional genes, the indigo precursor can be synthesised without using synthetic precursors. Currently used synthetic raw materials are toxic to aquatic systems and result in polluting the environment.
The research is in very early stages and is supported by a five-year grant from Bakar Fellowship programme. Blue jeans has been with us for over 140 years and co-invented by Levis Strauss and Jacob Davis in 1873. Globally, the denim industry is valued at US$ 60 billion. According to Cotton Incorporated, on average, each U.S. consumer owns seven pairs of jeans.
- Seshadri Ramkumar,
Texas Tech University, USA
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