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Genes In Jeans

By Aaron Ng

As technology advances, specifically in genetics, many aspects of our lives are bound to change. One such example are the classic American jeans. Now although many don’t enjoy change, it’s long overdue. Take the nice indigo color of jeans; the indigo color requires a dirty chemical process and has caused discoloration plus contamination to numerous rivers in China, India and other denim producing countries. A lot of this is due to the fact that the dye indigo, is useless without a lot of processing as it isn’t naturally water soluble. This results in a long arduous process where many dye materials are used and then simply released into the environment to reduce additional costs of removing them safely.

Now, this is where genetics come to play as, normally, the natural indigo requires certain treatment that would end with it being in a form called indican. This process can be skipped as researchers were able to alter the genes of E. coli bacteria so that the microscopic organisms could produce this form of indigo. Then, the indican were put into solutions including an enzyme where the end result was an indigo that required much less environmentally harmful waste. Presently, this is not the case though as 40,000 tons of waste discharge flows out of factories. Do not fear though reader, as jeans are being revolutionized in other ways by genes at this very moment.

Another good example of genes playing a role in stone washing jeans. That’s right, those super cool stone washed jeans your friend got were made using cellulases. These enzymes are essential as they break down cellulose, the main building blocks of plants. Now, after getting the genes from the enzyme from a fungi and putting them mithin bacteria, these enzyme could be mass produced. With the process constantly being refined, we now have it so we have complete control over the process where cellulases are able to only break down the dye while keeping the jeans intact. Compared to old practices, this one minimizes monetary and environmental costs; using enzymes, they are able to save 56 liters of water and not have to rely on the many previously used chemicals.

Now, you can see that genetics, something that people thought were only used behind lab doors, have been hiding in plain sight. Now although the public do not completely comprehend this science yet and how they impact their lives, it’s definitely the case that we are not heading into the future, but that we are in the future.

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