What's chitin? It is a polysaccharide made up of linked amino sugars N-acetyl-glucosamine.
Oh, that. Of course. I totally knew that.
Chitin is considered to be the second most abundant biomass on Earth! That's because it is found in crustacean and insect carapaces, snail shells, beaks of cephalopods, and even some fungal cell walls! (Apparently, chitin is the most pure in horseshoe crabs.)
Gene exploring the
space uses of chitin
Recently scientists at the Vienna University of Technology have been using chitin to cheaply produce antiviral medication. You see, the current antiviral drugs are produced from N-Acetylneuraminic acid, or NANA, which runs at about US$2,691 per gram! To make these drugs more accessible, the scientists took advantage of a chitin-eating fungus (Trichoderma sp.). This fungus normally breaks down chitin into monomer amino acids, but with the addition of bacterial genes into the fungus, chitin is broken down into NANA! Woot-woot!
Trichoderma sp. munchin' on some chitin to make NANA!Steiger, M. G., A. R. Mach-Aigner, R. Gorsche, E. E. Rosenberg, M. D. Mihovilovic, and R. L. Mach. 2011. Synthesis of an antiviral drug precursor from chitin using a saprophyte as a whole-cell catalyst. Microbial Cell Factories 10: 102 doi:10.1186/1475-2859-10-102