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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 22nd April 2016 > EXTREMO-SCRUB


Harnessing enzymes from the most inhospitable parts of the Earth to make greener cleaners


LIFE HAS BEEN found in just about every crevice, nook and cranny of the Earth that’s been explored, from the deep ice of Antarctica to the superheated thermal vents far under the ocean floor. All of these tough critters—“extremo-philes,” as scientists call them—have found incredible ways of thriving in environments that just decades ago biologists would have said were inhospitable to any life form.

A team of entrepreneurial scientists are hoping that some of the tools these microbes have evolved to survive the geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, where they make their home in boiling sulfuric acid, can make our world a little less toxic. CinderBio, a California-based company working in the SkyDeck startup incubator of the University of California, Berkeley, wants to replace some harsh industrial chemicals with extremophile enzymes, the tiny “machines” inside every cell that speed chemical reactions, like breaking up proteins for digestion.

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