|MadSci Network: Microbiology|
Yes they can Hair the material is composed of a protein called keratin. This protein is not just the building block of hair but also fingernails, claws, hoof's, wool, feathers and insect exoskeletons. Over time in the environment these are broken down by bacteria which can utilize this nitrogen rich nutrient. The limiting factor in this process as with most other biological systems is water. So you would need to do is put the hair in water with some salts such as NaCl, Na2SO4, MgCl2. CaNO3, so some minerals are available as well. As for the type of organisms to look at. You want microorganisms that are good at degrading polymers such as keratin. Most organisms produce a wide array of extracellular proteases which will degrade the keratin but probably the best are members of the genus Bacillus or Streptomyces.
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