Cyanobacteria are an important organism in many ecosystems. More than 25,000 species of cyanobacteria live everywhere – in water, in soils, on rocks, on plants. They range in size from a single cell to giant kelp over 150 feet long.
Often referred to as microalgae, or blue green algae, it is a group of bacteria that harness the sun’s energy through the process of photosynthesis, and convert it into usable energy. As a byproduct of this process, Cyanobacteria produce gaseous oxygen, and are credited for the production of all the oxygen gas on Earth. Since their origin, cyanobacteria have triggered a massive blooming in the biodiversity of aerobic organisms, and caused the near-extinction of oxygen-intolerant organisms.
Along with the production of essential and highly demanded oxygen gas and the fixing of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, may species of cyanobacteria also produce a variety neurotoxins, cytotoxins, endotoxins, or hepatotoxins. In that sense, Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira Maxima are exceptional types of Cyanobacteria as they are 2 of the very few Cyanobacteria strains that do not produce these toxins.
Therefore, when growing spirulina, it is highly important to identify the exact strain being used. The microalgae Phormidium, for example, very much resembles spirulina in shape and color, but can in fact be highly toxic when an algal bloom occurs. Such blooms in New Zealand and California lakes have caused the death of hundreds of dogs in less that half an hour from the moment of ingestion of these contaminated water.
It is thought that cyanobacteria are an environmental cause of degenerative neurological diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Parkinsons disease, and Alzheimers disease. At the same time, due to their ability to produce sugars and ethanol, Cyanobacteria have also been identified as a potential source of naturally derived antibiotics.
Scientific tests such as phylogenetic and morphological analysis clearly show that Spirulina is definitely bacteria.
While many types of cyanobacteria are harmful to humans, Spirulina is unique because it is edible and provides many health benefits.
Cyanobacteria for biofuel production
The use of cyanobacteria to produce hydrogen and oxygen from solar radiation is a promising, new technology for the production non-fossil fuel based energy. As fossil fuels are becoming more expensive and scarce, biologically-driven fuels are gaining increasing popularity.
Both Arthrospira maxima and Arthrospira Platensis ferment carbon compounds in the absence of light to produce hydrogen. This process is carried out in part by the hydrogenase enzyme which requires iron and nickel to operate. The rate of hydrogen production can be increased by raising the Nickel concentration. A. maximas is very promising because it is easy to culture, can achieve high cell densities and can produce hydrogen efficiently.« Back to Glossary Index