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.