Heavy metal poisoning has become a serious problem worldwide. Heavy metals are high atomic weight elements that can be accumulated in different ecosystems at dangerous levels, resulting in the contamination of the environment.
Arsenic and high concentrations of metals can affect the quality of the surrounding soils, rivers, aquifers, and material abandoned along these rivers from former mining operations. The geological characteristics of the Bolivian altiplano influence the physicochemical composition of the water, resulting in the accumulation of sulfur, boron, arsenic and others. In this way, different human populations in Bolivia are exposed to arsenic causing neurological disorders, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as these metals affect the health altering normal human metabolic and biochemical function
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After identifying such a dangerous problem for humans, team Bolivia decided to design, build, and validate a bacterial biosensor that allows the quantification of arsenic, having the minimum specifications of good performance: short response time, detection of concentrations as low as 10 ppb, and the specificity for arsenic. In addition, our biosensor offers an easy result interpretation by generating a color signal visible to the naked eye.
As the Human Practices group, we wanted to integrate all social actors involved in water quality access, and we carried out diverse activities related to ethics, sustainability and safety. Our main objective was to know the problem of arsenic contamination at its root, to reach the people affected by it and to propose possible solutions. Throughout our journey we were able to learn and become aware of the great problem of water pollution. It has been a journey full of lessons and we can affirm that our perception about water has changed.
Bolivia has multicultural people who speak different native indian languages. This situation can create a cultural barrier that makes the access to science more challenging since native speakers, in a way, are forced to learn spanish in order to become knowledgeable in science and technology. To generate a positive impact on Bolivian society, we produced educational videos using the most representative native languages of the country and disseminate information about synthetic biology and biotechnology.
Education & Communication
Bolivia has a major issue with science communication and therefore, most citizens lack science culture. This is why we started activities to engage and inform people about biotechnology and synthetic biology. The activities carried out were: Social Media content like nfographics, news, podcasts and videos; an educational guide to encourage young people to learn about these topics; episodes about biology topics for students during the pandemic; CoviGEM to update scientific information about COVID-19; podcast ConCiencia to inspire people through stories of Bolivian researchers; Journal Club to share biotechnology from scientific papers based on eye-catching or controversial topics.