Microbial physiology is a subgroup of the study of microbiology. This division, however, studies the biochemical functions of microbial cells. Microbial physiology examines microbial growth, metabolism and cell structure. Like other areas of microbiology, microbial physiology has interested people for hundreds of years. Initially, microbial physiology analyzes how the individual components of cells function together. As time has passed, however, researchers are moving toward the introduction of genetic modification, or metabolic engineering, to this study.
Currently, microbial physiology is being used to show how humans interact with their environments. Some of the areas researchers are looking into include primary and secondary metabolism in actinomycetes, glycoside hydrolase enzymes action on starch and sucrose. They hope that their research will translate into areas that encompass metabolic engineering, which will combine physiological and genetic techniques. The microbial physiological research will serve as a template for the construction of bacterial strains that produce enormous amounts of primary and secondary metabolites.
Metabolic engineering focuses on altering metabolic pathways on purpose in order to understand and use cellular networks for chemical transformation, energy transduction, and supramolecular construction. When scientists examine metabolic engineering from a physiological approach, they realize how hard it is to alter metabolic structures. The deconstruction process is difficult because of the rigidity of the networks in a living body that are in place to control growth; therefore, there is balanced growth because of how hard it is to cause metabolic changes in an organism.
Microbial physiology and engineering strategies work together to gain a comprehensive understanding of the host cell. Once the cell has been studied, scientists can outline ways in which they can break this rigid network and outline the types of genetic modifications they would need to reach their goals. However, they cannot haphazardly break these chains in order to accomplish their purpose. Scientists have to make sure that, in the process of doing their research, they are not causing more harm than good.
The physiological considerations that researcher think about are how genetic manipulation would affect growth. They must contemplate whether or not their gene manipulation will somehow have a negative effect on an unrelated system. These possible scenarios have to be considered so that they are not causing more harm than good to the living organism. Most individuals would not see how this type of research would be necessary for their lives.
However, the combined study of metabolic engineering and microbial physiology is important. By deconstructing cells and gaining an understanding of how they work, scientists get a clearer picture of how the various functions work together. Thus, they work from a microscopic approach to cells to getting the big picture, or macroscopic understanding.