Many of us simply can't imagine taking on the world without our morning cup of coffee. And rarely is it because we simply enjoy the taste, it's the eye-opening caffeine we crave. Scientists have now come to realize that we are not alone in our quest to be caffeinated, and a newly-discovered bacteria depends on the compound not for a quick jolt energy, but for sustenance.
The discovery is important to the scientific community because of what it means for modern medicine. Known as Pseudomonas putida CBB5, the organism consumes and breaks down caffeine molecules into carbon dioxide and ammonia.
During this process certain enzymes are also created, including ones that are particularly hard for drug makers to chemically synthesize. These enzymes are used in the production of treatments for asthma and irregular heartbeats, among others. Using the new bacteria to do the heavy lifting could lead to quicker production and, hopefully, cheaper medicine.
Caffeine itself, while making our busy lives a bit more tolerable, is produced in many plants as an insecticide. It was originally isolated from coffee beans by a German scientist in 1820 and found to be a stimulant in humans.
It is often considered to be the most widely abused psychoactive drug on Earth, but it seems like humans aren't the only ones addicted to the chemical we know for its jitter-inducing properties.
by Mike Wehner on May 26, 2011