March 10, 2009

Alga found that detoxifies arsenic

Montana State University scientists say they have discovered an alga in Yellowstone National Park that can chemically modify arsenic.

Professor Tim McDermott, who led the study, said the one-celled alga -- called Cyanidioschyzon -- thrives in extremely toxic conditions and chemically modifies arsenic that occurs naturally around the park's hot springs.

The researchers said the alga, a single algae, might be used someday to help reclaim arsenic-laden mine waste as well as in creating safer foods and herbicides.

McDermott, Professor Barry Rosen of Florida International University and Corinne Lehr now of California Polytechnic State University describe the alga and how it detoxifies arsenic in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.