New Application Track
The New Applications tracks in iGEM is possibly the most difficult to describe. Without using the term "catch-all", there is a certain diversity of projects that is not found as much in other tracks. New Application teams work to create novel, forward-thinking projects and innovative ideas that don't fit into conventional paradigms.
New Application is an apt description for a track that doesn't have a common problem, or focus on connecting all the projects together. It is the novelty of ideas and approach in investigating a question that may never have previously been examined that qualifies a project for the New Application track.
You will find images and abstracts of the winning New Application teams from 2015 to 2016 below.
aSTARice -- astaxanthin biosynthesis in rice endosperm
Astaxanthin is a naturally-occurring keto-carotenoid found in microalgae, salmon, shrimp, crustaceans, and the feathers of some birds. It provides the red color of salmon meat and cooked shellfish.Because astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant with great value in medical and health care,it is meaningful to make astaxanthin an accessible health product.Currently, the industrial ways to produce astaxanthin are extract from microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis,Phaffia yeast,shrimp processing waste and chemical product.However these ways aren’t safety enough and the purification is difficult. While higher plants are supposed to be an efficient and safe bioreactor to produce astaxanthin,because it has advanced protein processing system to produce complex product.So we think about using higher plant to produce astaxanthin.In our project,we take rice endosperm as the bioreactor of astaxanthin production,and use a technique called multiple-gene metabolic engineering to specifically express astaxanthin in rice endosperm. In this way, rice endosperm can produce and store astaxanthin.
The new age of optics: Creating biological lenses and lasers to improve imaging techniques
This project aims to engineer Escherichia coli to make biological microlenses and lasers. To produce microlenses, we express the enzyme silicatein in our engineered cells, which catalyzes polymerization of silicic acid. This results in a biosilica layer around the cell, enabling it to function as a microlens. Additionally, we will create biological lasers to improve current imaging techniques by expressing fluorescent proteins within biosilica-covered cells. A fraction of the photons emitted by fluorescent proteins are trapped inside the cell by the biosilica layer. Once these photons hit other excited fluorescent proteins, stimulated emission occurs. This process results in light with a higher intensity and a narrower color spectrum compared to conventional fluorescence. With our research we hope to contribute to the wide range of applications in the field of bio-optics and enable environmentally friendly and economic production of microlenses with applications varying from smartphones to solar panels.
Be Bold: Hit baldness at its root
Hair loss affects roughly 1.5 billion people worldwide. The trigger for male pattern baldness is believed to be dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a derivative of testosterone. We have created a system in which two different engineered bacterium are combined in a custom-made comb manufactured in a 3D printer, working together to break down DHT, treating the problem at its root. We engineered Bacillus Subtilis, to secrete 3α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3-α-HSD), an enzyme which reduces DHT to a non-steroidically active compound, using NADPH and NADH as cofactors. In addition, we genetically engineered Escherichia Coli to overproduce NADPH, enabling the enzymatic reaction to take place and driving it in the right direction. The two strains can be combined easily and cleanly with the help of our comb, providing a user-friendly tool and a novel, promising direction for future hair loss treatments.
In ancient Roman myth, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, who is depicted as having two faces. Our project is focused on another Janus - hydrophobin the protein, who looks to the hydrophilicity and hydrophobicity. Because of this, a sea of new applications are created. Firstly, we re-designed the structures of two classes of hydrophobins, making expression in E.coli possible. Secondly, we use its double-sticky-tape-like ability to make two applications. We take this advantage to fix antibodies on a high-flux tumor detection chip. Meanwhile, they are used to catch cutinases for plastic degradation. We even make them into a fusion to test if the enhancement could be better. Thirdly, we use its amphipathicity to achieve protein separation, where they act as a special purification tag, and the system could be as simple as polymer, detergent and water. With help of this, we could even achieve recovery of cutinases.