I am writing to you to let you know of an exciting opportunity. This year, I and a small group of academic staff will be leading an undergraduate team entry into the International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition, or iGEM. (http://igem.org/Main_Page)
For those of you not aware, iGEM is a synthetic biology competition for undergraduate students from Universities across the world, run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, USA. Student teams use biological engineering principles to design, construct and test a novel synthetic biology gene circuit. Student teams will work from now, January 2014 onwards, and over the summer of 2014 to construct and test their gene circuits, before travelling to Boston in November to present their results and compete in the competition by delivering a talk and poster at the multinational iGEM symposium.
Aberdeen took part successfully in the competition in 2009 and 2010 (take a look at our team web sites on the iGEM site!), and we will be entering again this year. We will be selecting a team of enthusiastic, bright and committed students to make up a University of Aberdeen iGEM entry over the next two weeks. If you are interested, come along to Taylor Building, A21, on Wednesday afternoon 5th February at 14.00 to find out more!
Prof Ian Stansfield
We now finally have our team ready, and now the work begins.
5th March, 2014
Synthetic biology project ideas:
• Bacterial drones
Engineering bacteria to carry particular substances to specific locations via manipulation of chemotaxis
• Defrosting streets in winter
To engineer bacteria expressing anti-freeze proteins from an arctic fish in order to provide an alternative for using salt in winter to defrost streets
• Light sensor
Engineering bacteria that would sense the intensity of light in our surrounding and respond when it falls below a certain threshold by producing light (e.g. to keep optimal light levels when reading). Geobacter could be used since it can transmit an electric current
• Tetrodotoxin detector
Designing a biosensor which would be able to detect lethal concentrations of tetrodotoxin in prepared puffer fish, allowing a decision whether it is safe to consume
• Recycling nappies
A bacterium which would be able to degrade a filling used in baby nappies
• Polyester degradation
Engineering bacteria to degrade polyester and hence enable recycling of polyester based thrash, e.g. margarine packages and yoga mats
• Biological night light
Engineering plants to express luminescent luciferase in order to create a touch-activated night light for children which wouldn't require electricity
• Bacterial pen
Filling a pen with bacteria manipulated to synthesize dye. Such a pen would never run out of ink as long as we would feed it with nitrogen and sugar. A water-soluble and insoluble dyes could be synthesized.
• Supplementation of Vit.C
Engineering probiotic bacteria to synthesize vitamin C in order to produce Vit. C fortified food products
• Biofilm degradation
The idea is to engineer bacteria to synthesize an enzyme capable of degrading extracellular polymeric substances which create biofilms. This would ideally reduce biofilm-associated infections by disrupting quorum sensing, decreasing antibiotic resistance in bacteria and increasing their sensitivity to cleaning agents. Engineered bacteria could be incorporated into a toothpaste.
• Water contamination detectors
Engineered bacteria would sense a presence of one of the following in water and respond via a colour change upon detection.
a) Vibrio cholerae
• Greenhouse gas reduction bacteria
An anaerobic bacteria that uses NO2 to get Methane and then 'digests' Methane into CO2 and H20. The idea is to get the bacteria to stop at Methane and thus suck it from the atmosphere. Ask here more about it, if you have the chance.
• CO Detector bacteria
Use modified bacteria that is equipped with receptors for CO to signal a high concentration of CO in air. The bacteria could emit light, change colour or other type of signal.
• Computer Bacteria
Use bacteria that conducts electricity and modify it in a way that it will conduct or not depending on a certain environmental condition. This way, we can make the bacteria mimic a computational process.
• Fire detector bacteria
Fire detectors work by constantly checking for contamination in the air from smoke particles. They achieve this by flowing a current through a radioactive emitter, which decreases/stops emitting radiation when surrounded by smoke particles. This fall in current, triggers the detector. We could try imitating this behaviour with the electricity conducting bacteria, by making it not able to conduct electricity when smoke particles are with high concentration.
James' idea. We really liked this one and it doesn't seem so far-fetched.
• Contaminated water detector
Use E.coli (or sth.) to secrete colour in reaction to certain toxins in water. Problematic as in pure water witn only toxin diluted, there is no energy source for the bacteria.
• Break down of oil spills
Make a bacteria break down oil into non-harmful matter in order to clean up oil spills.
• Reduce saturated fat intake in humans
Use a similar idea to the previous one, but in this case, bacteria will extract saturated fat from food intake and make it indigestible or the bacteria itself could break it down to something less harmful.
Ag43+Quorum sensing for a surface marker detection system
Our fate is uncertain, Ag43 contains Pst1 sites. Rescued INP plasmids from 2014 distribution (523008, 523013)as a fallback plan.
Dr Rey Carabeo offers us the use of his FluoSTAR OPTIMA automated fluoresence plate reader, enabling us easy analysis of fluoresence in response to quorum over time.
The INP(-)His, INP-YFP-His, and Ag43-FLAG are doubly-transformed with Sender and Receiver constructs
Opens February 14th
Closes March 31st, Team registration fee due
For travelling to USA
Ask safety questions, meet other iGEMers! (More office hours will be scheduled later in summer.)
-September 19 Giant Jamboree attendance fee due at 11:59PM EDT
-September 19 Measurement Interlab Study Data due at 11:59PM EDT
Parts should be received by this date
Project and Part documentation due, including documentation for all medal criteria
-Judging form due
-Giant Jamboree wiki FREEZE at 11:59PM EDT
-Parts.igem.org wiki FREEZE at 11:59PM EDT
-Additional Part DNA due to the Registry (not a requirement)
-Judges Assignments distributed