Environment has been a track in iGEM for many years of the competition. Projects that tackle environmental issues have been popular since the first biosensor projects appeared in the 2006 iGEM competition. Teams have been inspired to work on solutions to problems in their local area, such as the British Columbia in 2011 and Colombia in 2012. These teams were inspired to tackle massive environmental problems that are unique to their regions. Learning about these problems and how passionate teams can be to find solutions is one of the great parts of the iGEM competition.
You will find images and abstracts of the winning Environment track teams from 2015 to 2016 below.
Uranium, a well-known radioactive metal, exhibits both chemical toxicity and radioactive hazards to environment and humans. Nowadays, several common methods are adopted to cope with uranium pollution, such as solidification of poluted soil and phytoremediation. Nevertheless, these methods are flawed owing to high cost, lengthy procedures as well as potential secondary contamination. To overcome the drawbacks of traditional methods, Peking iGEM team focus on constructing a novel multi-functional biological material which is able to absorb uranyl ion fleetly with high specificity and affinity. This uranyl-absorbing material can be synthesized and secreted continuously by bacteria, self-assembled in extracellular environment, and harvested in a cost-effective manner. It also has a great potential to be modified and expanded due to its modular design. With this material, we demonstrate how the increasingly serious uranium pollution can be treated in a more efficient and sustainable way in the near future.
TJUSLS China's subject of the competition for this year is the surface display to modify PET hydrolase(PETase). PET hydrolase was found from a kind of microorganism living on PET as the main carbon source. It can degrade macromolecular polymers into monomers. Surface display can reveal the protein whose gene code is coalescing the gene code of target protein or polypeptide with the counterpart of ankyrin on the surface of the host cell wall to harvest the whole cell catalyst. The protagonists of our project, which are PETase and the surface display technology, will act in two aspects. Firstly, create the mutant of PETase in order to improve the degradation efficiency and thermal stability. Secondly, useing surface display on the surface of the prokaryotic (Escherichia coli) and eukaryotic (Pichia yeast) for whole cell enzyme catalysis reaction.
Cell-free Sticks - It works on paper
We developed cell-free biosensors which can be used as paper-based test strips. These offer significant advantages over conventional biosensors regarding biosafety, sensitivity and output signal. We created two technical approaches built upon self-made E.coli cell extract and our newly established Plasmid Repressor Interaction Assay (PRIA). Both can be immobilized on paper. The fluorescence signal is detected via smartphone. With these novel biosensor designs we tackle the problem of date rape drug intoxications, which is of increasing relevance in our area, by detecting a common ingredient. Another major problem is the contamination of water with heavy metals. Heavy metal sensors designed by previous iGEM teams as well as new biosensors are combined to a modular cell-free test strip for simultaneous detection. All in all, we are providing an extensible biosensor on paper as a valuable tool for water quality analysis for everyone.
fishPHARM: A Genetically Engineered Solution to Bacterial Coldwater Disease in Salmonid Fish
Salmonid fish are among one of the leading agricultural exports worldwide. Unfortunately, thousands of these otherwise viable or edible fish are wasted each year to bacterial coldwater disease (BCWD). BCWD is a potentially lethal bacterial infection that currently lacks an effective industrial solution and is caused by the pathogen Flavobacterium psychrophilum. Our fishPHARM system offers a comprehensive treatment for BCWD and is composed of a biologically synthesized peptide integrated into a fish tag drug delivery mechanism to safely administer our treatment to infected fish without environmental harm. Recent research has shown that the entericidin B peptide provides resistance against F. psychrophilum, thereby acting as a curative agent for infected fish. In order to determine the most effective BCWD biological treatment, we aim to engineer E. coli for the production of over twenty different entericidins and to test their activity against F. psychrophilum.