Partnership with FAFU-China

This year we formed a partnership with team FAFU-China. As both teams are located in Fuzhou China, we made some contact in the early days of the competition. After some preliminary investigation, the FAFU team found that some people used scented products to ease depression, lighten spirits, and encourage relaxation, which coincided with the purpose of our project. The two teams then worked together to address issues such as depression and anxiety. We tried to regulate depression through GadB-synthesized GABA, while FAFU wanted to use aromas to regulate mood. Both teams worked together on experiments, human practice, education, wiki, and artwork to help improve each other's projects.

The Partnership page of FAFU-China can be found here.

June 20th
After preliminary communication via wechat, we decided to host the first meetup. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, FAFU-China was forced to suspend the experiment and the first meetup was also changed to an online format. At the same time, FAFU-China and us talked over some issues about our projects.

FAFU-China issues FZU-China advice
How to deal with the odor produced by microbial fermentation? Can it be covered up? Can it use inorganic nitrogen?
What kind of microorganism should be used as the chassis? The chassis microorganism should remain stable at higher concentrations of terpenoids.
How to balance the relationship between microbial growth and production? You can use an oscillator, a bistable switch, or an optogenetic switch to control the production.
Aroma substances can indirectly relieve human anxiety. But the specific regulation mechanism is unknown. The neuromodulation pathways of the two teams are similar, and both are related to the GABA neurotransmitter regulation system.
How will the aroma production system be applied to human society? Through a filter? Via small night lamps with aroma?
The discussion
How to formulate an optimal fermentation condition? We can use the idea of intermittent production. Add the oscillator module to the system to balance microbial growth and production.
What kind of control system and inducer should we use? FZU-China: We use optogenetic switches to reduce the psychological pressure of patients.
FAFU-China: We want to use changes in physical factors to adjust the aroma produced, such as light and temperature.
How to deal with the endotoxin released by E. coli? FZU-China: We have specially selected endotoxin-deficient E. coli strains: Endotoxin-Free ClearColi® BL21 (DE3)
Will the lengthy production and regulation system affect the stability of the product? FAFU-China: we should simplify the system to reduce the fermentation period

July 25th
We introduced our team’s projects to each other and noticed the similarities in the project. In terms of human practice, we all paid attention to mental health. In terms of the experiment, we all used optogenetic switches as a regulatory element. After the meetup, we were interested in the optogenetic switch that FAFU-China used. In addition, we agreed to help FAFU-China to test the function of the optogenetic switch since they did not have access to the lab during summer break.

Does the optogenetic control element need to be reversible in a closed system? FZU-China: Our system will terminate with the lysis of E. coli. So we do not have to consider the issue of reversibility. FAFU-China: our target is to maintain the changes of fragrances as long as possible. So it is necessary for the optogenetic component to be reversible.
How do we simulate the optogenetic control conditions? FZU-China: We will measure the intensity of blue fluorescence by using a microplate reader to show the function of luxCDABE. FAFU-China: Our engineering bacteria will be used in small night lamps. So we will use the 12-hour intermittent cultivation method to simulate actual application scenarios.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, FAFU-China was forced to suspend the wet lab plan during summer break. We agreed to help them test the effectiveness of their b3 Plasmid. We conducted some experiments using the b3 Plasmid and we notified the FAFU-China team of the results. Cells that were grown under blue light showed green fluorescence, while those grown in dark did not show significant fluorescence.

August 31th
We planned to hold a joint project talk at our school with FAFU-China, and we discussed some specific issues of the talk and planned the outline of the talk. FAFU-China would introduce their project and advertise the talk at their school. FZU-China would be in charge of photography, the main lecture, and advertising the talk at our school.

September 3th --September 5th
FAFU-China gave us some suggestions about the wiki page. They helped us solve the problems in the navigation bar and taught us some tips on CSS.

September 5th--September 8th
In order to achieve better advertisement, our art group co-designed a poster with FAFU-China.

September 9th
After CCIC8,we wanted to learn more about the real process of treating depression. Therefore, we got in touch with Dr. Zisen Zhuang from the First Affiliated Hospital of Fujian Medical University. Dr. Zhuang systematically introduced the pathogenesis, the treatment of depression, and some issues of depression. FAFU-China contacted Weiyi Zhang, a teacher in the forest health major of their school. He introduced the creation of human emotions, the concept of forest health, how physical factors such as smell affect humans and how these chemical factors have a positive effect. After the interview, both sides exchanged the information we had obtained.

September 10th
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and time conflict, FAFU-China couldn't come to the talk in person. But they recorded a video to help freshmen understand what they were doing and what synthetic biology was.

September 11th -- September 16th
We sent the plasmid of phiX174E to FAFU-China. We wanted them to help demonstrate the function of phiX174E in their lab. The results from FAFU-China further supported the lysis function of phiX174E.

October 1st
FAFU-China reminded us that the upload of parts was about to freeze and helped us debug some issues with our wiki pages, such as backgrounds, font heights, etc. They also provided helpful comments on our judging forms as this was our first time doing this and we did not have previous FZU team members to consult with.

October 3rd
During the National Day holiday, all the members of both teams held an online meeting. This was a summary of our previous series of activities. And together we analyzed the information gathered from previous joint interviews. It was concluded that the treatments of depression were still very limited, and the effects of treatments varied from person to person. This provided a realistic basis for our projects to be put into implementation. Members of both teams also explained their current work progress and difficulties and held exchanges and discussions. In addition, we recommended that the FAFU team designed the product as a small sachet, after discussion they took our suggestion.