The term bioremediation has its origin in the English word bioremediation. The concept makes it possible to refer to the use of microorganisms to treat a substance or to recover environmental conditions.
As the word suggests, bioremediation appeals to living organisms to remedy an event. The bacteria, the fungi and even certain plants can absorb and degrade contaminants, thereby cleaning the soil, water or the environment in general. Bioremediation helps nature to overcome an imbalance and thus recover an ecosystem that has suffered some kind of damage from the action of pollution.
The purpose of bioremediation, therefore, is to reverse a situation in which the presence of pollutants has altered the natural characteristics of the environment.
With the use of microorganisms it is possible to combat contamination that is inaccessible at first: for example, an oil spill that entered the ground and could affect groundwater. Digging, in this case, would be more expensive and complex than resorting to bioremediation. This is just one of its advantages, among which we can highlight its viability, its simplicity and the contribution of nutrients through the composting processes.
In a spill of this type you can add fertilizers with sulphates or nitrates that promote the reproduction of the bacteria. These microorganisms help break down crude oil.
Bioremediation processes can be monitored by monitoring pH, redox potential, oxygen level, or temperature, among other various parameters. The specialty that drives these processes and oversees them is biotechnology (the area of technology that uses biological resources).
With regard to the use of genetic engineering in this context, its importance is very great since it gives rise to the creation of organisms specifically designed to carry out bioremediation in a well-defined environment and with a well-defined objective.
A very common example can be seen in the modification that scientists made to the bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans, one of the organisms most capable of resisting radiation, so that it could consume the mercury ions and toluene present in high-level nuclear waste radiation.
One of the best known bioremediation methods is called microremediation. The term was made known by the American mycologist and writer Paul E. Stamets, and consists of the use of fungi for the purpose of decontamination of a soil. In more technical terms, mycorremediation consists of using fungal mycelia, that is, the mass composed of networks of filaments that are part of the vegetative body of fungi.
The use of fungi in bioremediation is very logical, since one of their most important roles in ecosystems is decomposition, which is carried out by mycelia. They secrete extracellular acids and enzymes that collaborate with the degradation of cellulose and lignin (plants have these two components in their cell wall, and they are the most important).
Cellulose and lignin have extensive hydrogen and carbon chains in their composition, with strong bonds that make wood and plant fibers especially robust. Their chemical structures resemble those of various pollutants today, and precisely one of the main points of mycorremediation is to find the most suitable strain of fungi for the treatment of different types of pollutants, a principle that applies to the bioremediation in general and, why not, medicine: every disease or disorder must be treated with the appropriate medicine.