‘Miracle tree’ may help provide clean water to developing countries – Penn State University

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University Park, Pa. — Often called the “miracle tree” for its potential to provide food, fuel and water in harsh environments, the moringa oleifera tree is at the center of a new effort by three Penn State engineers to provide clean drinking water to the developing world.

The work — funded by a year-long, $10,000 Environmental Protection Agency P3 grant — seeks to optimize a water treatment process involving the moringa seed.

“P3 – that’s people, prosperity and planet. It’s for the developing world,” said Stephanie Velegol, instructor in environmental engineering and a co-principal investigator on the grant.

Darrell Velegol, professor of chemical engineering and the grant’s principal investigator, said, “The idea behind our use of the moringa is this: the seeds of the tree contain proteins. One of them is a cationic protein, a positively-charged protein, which contains a little peptide sequence that acts like a molecular knife. So this little molecular knife goes through the bacterial cell wall and kills it, basically slitting it open. We have data showing that for one type of E. coli bacteria, the moringa proteins not only take the bacteria out, but kill the bacteria too.”

To read the complete story: http://live.psu.edu/story/48249

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