During the field investigation, we learned that Tongji University is carrying out the "Nursery Project" to popularize basic life sciences. It just so happened that we also had the idea of holding lectures for more people. Both in Shanghai, we got in touch and held a meeting to exchange our ideas and experiences, and make a plan to carry out follow-up lecture projects together.
During the meeting, we introduced our projects to each other and put forward certain suggestions on our respective projects. Finally, in the discussion of the education part, we were surprised to find that both sides have the requirement for lectures that university students as the main body to conduct lectures. Therefore, a detailed discussion was launched on the specific lecture preparation activities.
For college students, it is necessary to fully consider their high level of knowledge and the characteristics of their major courses. Therefore, we put forward the concept of multi-interdisciplinary integration lectures. The iGEM competition is a cross-disciplinary comprehensive competition. The object of education should not be limited to students majoring in bio-sciences, but should be further extended to students majoring in other sciences. On the one hand, introducing the knowledge of synthetic biology to more people is one of the tenets of the iGEM competition, on the other hand, interdisciplinary can also bring more inspiration and solutions to our experiments. We hope to develop horizontal education models for different majors, so we suggested that Tongji University also try such models and use projects to promote the concept of interdisciplinary.
To make lectures better, Tongji University also shared their valuable experience gained in the "Nursery Project" in response to questionnaires and feedback received during the education process. They emphasized the importance of the questionnaire, and put forward suggestions on how to fill in the questionnaire before and after the questionnaire separately, and reflect the efficiency of the lecture through comparison. We adopted the suggestions of students from Tongji University, and designed different questionnaires to understand the degree of understanding and acceptance of education by the educational objects according to the characteristics of different majors.
In participating in CCiC, we learned that the Nanjing_NFLS team is working on the degradation of antibiotic contaminants in the environment, and our detection steps can be used as auxiliary tools. They proposed at the meeting that they hope to add chemical control to the project via the idea of designing a killing switch, and this is actually one of the most common uses of Aptazymes, so we hoped that our components can help them.
Therefore, after CCiC, we once again held an online meeting to respect projects of the two teams. Through the explanation of the Nanjing_NFLS team, we learned about the environmental hazards of antibiotics in the environment, especially chlortetracycline.So we added it to the target screening list. Secondly, we introduced in detail the wide range of uses of aptazyme as riboswitch. And suggested that they combine the patina regulatory gene with our switch to produce a functional plasmid that meets the expected effect.
After that, we obtained environmental antibiotics and put them into our system to start screening; At the meantime, Nanjing_NFLS team also started the experimental design and operation of specific switches. After we sent the bio-sensors of gardiquimod and theophylline, the Nanjing_NFLS team later connected the MazF gene to produce substances that kill Pseudomonas aeruginosa through the regulation of upstream bio-sensors.
In the end, after discussion, both of us hoped that our platform can achieve universal applicability. We will develop quick detection methods for more antibiotics; while the Nanjing_NFLS team will carry out more antibiotic degradation work to jointly protect the local area!
After the promotion video released in iGEM universe, we were surprised to find that the team TU-Delft were also working with De novo Rapid in Vitro Evolution of RNA biosensors(DRIVER) system to develop the detection method of Vitamin in the blood, to promote the diagnose and research on the shortage of Vitamin. This coincides with our idea of developing a quick detection kits platform through aptamer. So, we got in touch with them through slack and held a meeting.
Through the meeting, we comprehensively exchanged our experimental records. They shared the experimental data and schedule with us. We communicated with each other on the experimental progress, verification level, modeling and HP work of the two teams.
TU-Delft provided a successful experience of performing DRIVER system following the author`s protocol which reduced our worry of abortion halfway, and we started our evolution soon after the meeting. We followed their detailed suggestions about running urea PAGE for quality control and their reminding of paying attention to the period of NGS pushed us to contact the next-generation sequencing company to prepare the equipment and quality control in advance, which helped us a lot.
With the goal of establishing rapid detection kits for major environmental pollution accidents, our team hopes to improve everyone's awareness of environmental quality and supervise the environment from their own perspective. However, due to the impact of the epidemic, it has become difficult to hold our education project offline, so a series of online courses have been produced. In the process of looking for a launch platform. We found that TJUSLS_China is also arousing people's awareness of plastic pollution and environmental protection. They creatively used direct and effective online-live classes to conduct their education. Therefore, we hope to chat with them about related content and find the possibility of further cooperation.
Meet up: For further discussion, we held a preliminary meeting and introduced the overall framework of our projects to each other. The TJUSLS_China team is working on the artificial design of plastic degrading enzymes and the optimization of use conditions so that we have discussed in detail about the design approach and verification process. While we are designing the platform for rapid detection kits development, and students from Tianjin University offered some ideas of the specific application after development, which broadened our thinking.
During the inference, we surprisingly found that two teams have a high degree of overlap in hp work. So it was not only possible to cooperate in the delivery of education courses, but some interviews could be shared.
First of all, we used the video platform of Tianjin University to launch a series of popular science lectures on basic biological knowledge. And we received extensive attention and feedback.
Secondly, for the sake of understanding the quick detection methods, policies and regulations in different regions, we invited the TJUSLS_China team to conduct preliminary interviews of their local agricultural product market and visit to the management of their quick detection stations.
New Pollutant Alliance was held up for better communication and mutual boost. Our five teams together discussed the policy, technical problems and gave a great job on making each other better through communicating.
The introduction of alliance members
Due to the large scale use of antibiotic on human and animals, the remaining antibiotic in natural water has posed a threat on the ecosystem and human health. Our project designed a whole cell biosensor with a high performance of detecting antibiotics(taking tetracycline and macrolides as representatives). In order to overcome the restrictions of traditional restrictions of WCBs, we choose a fluorescent activated RNA aptamer(3WJdB) as the output signal to increase response speed. Moreover, we applied NIMPLY logic gate (comprising CRISPRi and strand replacement reaction) to improve the signal-noise ratio and dynamic range.
Our work presents a simple strategy to improve PET plastic degradation in river, lake, soil and biosynthetic microbe factories. The first step is to degrade PET in biology method, then we can use the degradation chemical products to produce more useful things.
The degradation of residual tetracycline antibiotics in the environment by antibiotics is a practical problem related to ecology and human health in recent years. There is an urgent need to develop efficient and convenient tetracycline (aureomycin) antibiotic degradation technology. We found that microbial fuel cells can degrade aureomycin through Fenton reaction by modifying the cathode. At the same time, in order to improve the degradation rate, we located the biofilm of battery anodethe for biofilm activity is closely related to the efficiency of microbial fuel cell. In the process of film formation, the process of bacterial communication through chemical molecules is called quorum sensing. Through overexpression of quorum sensing system in electrogenic bacteria, we greatly improved the efficiency of fuel cell, so as to improve the degradation efficiency of aureomycin.
17- α- Ethyl estradiol, EE2 for short, is an artificial estrogen with strong estrogenic effect. It is also the main component of short acting contraceptives. The intake of EE2 will affect the endocrine system of fish and human body, and cause a series of diseases, such as feminization of male fish, hysteromyoma, precocious puberty of children, decline of sperm motility and so on. EE2 is mainly concentrated in domestic sewage and industrial sewage. Because there is no effective degradation method, the concentration of EE2 in water increases gradually. Hi ZJU team is committed to degrading and detecting environmental estrogen EE2 by synthetic biological means. We introduced amoA gene and Hao gene from European Nitrosomonas into E. coli to make the latter obtain the ability to metabolize EE2. In addition, we developed a high sensitivity method for the detection of EE2 under natural conditions by yeast two hybrid technology and artificial intelligence assisted protein transformation. Green fluorescent protein was added to the plasmid expression sequence of yeast, so as to visualize the EE2 concentration in wastewater.
In the traditional rapid detection technology based on the monoclonal antibody, the sandwich method often requires the target to have more than two different antigen epitopes. The competitive method is often cumbersome and has limited sensitivity. Therefore, the types of targets that can be detected by rapid antibody detection have certain limitations. More importantly, if some molecules do not cause the immune response of model animals, the preparation of monoclonal antibodies cannot be completed. At the same time, although the antibody development technology has been relatively mature, the relatively complex experimental operation and the inherent cycle of the immune process make it difficult to greatly optimize the time, human and resource investment required for antibody development. The subsequent protein expression, purification, modification and storage also have many difficulties for the cost is high, and the production and preparation cycle is difficult to be further compressed. Aptamer based detection technology can avoid many of these limitations. Therefore, SJTU BioX Shanghai team hopes to use aptazyme liquid phase automatic screening technology combined with colloidal gold flow measurement analysis technology to build a platform that can quickly and automatically develop test strips for various new targets. Compared with the traditional immunocolloidal gold test paper, the production cost and production speed of the test paper products developed by this platform are expected to be greatly optimized.SJTU BioX Shanghai team expects that it will play a great role in emergency response, large-scale multi-target preliminary screening and investigation, etc.
The feelings and Rewards of joining New Pollutants Alliance
As the initiator of the New Pollutants Alliance and the organizer of New Pollutants Workshop, we feel we are the team the harvest the most. We initially focused on antibiotics only. But through the meet-ups we attended, we found there are other teams who are also dedicated to new pollutants problems resolved by synthetic biology. We then came up with the idea of forming a New Pollutants Alliance. All of our alliance members chose to develop new pollutants detecting or degrading approaches, we then face some similar difficulties like visualizing signal reports, improving degradation rate, lowering detection rate and so on. A close alliance can culture cross collaboration, for example, we had a collaboration with DUT and developed a partnership with Nanjing_NFLS(See more detail on our collaboration and partnership page). Since we got to know each other through meet-ups and workshops, we then came up with the idea of holding a workshop together. But this time, inviting people outside of in. Because scientific research may be at the forefront of solving social problems such as new pollutant pollution, but it must require the joint efforts of all sectors of society. From laws, enterprise, to public awareness.
The workshop turned out to be very successful. The conversations with synthetic biology inspired the members’ project design, and the conversation with the experts in ecotoxicology enriched every team’s background. There were even further collaborations between our members and the invited experts. We received the email of the participating experts who thanked us for holding this workshop and looked forward to attending more. This is definitely one of the most pleasing moments as the organizer of the new pollutants workshop. The alliance is temporary, but there must be “latecomers” in the future for there must be more iGEM teams in the future trying to use synthetic biology approaches to resolve new pollutants related problems.
Honored to participate in the workshop of the New Pollutants Alliance composed of OUC-China, Nanjing_NFLS, HiZJU, DUT and SJTU-BioX-Shanghai and have a deep understanding of other iGEM teams. Our team’s project is plastic degradation, which also includes the degradation of microplastics in new environmental pollutants. Our team’s ultimate goal is degrading environmental pollutants same as one of OUC-China and other teams. In the meeting，we also learned about other pollutants besides microplastic——persistent organic pollutants, antibiotics, and the need for pollution control. New pollutants may enter the environment and cause known or potential negative ecological or health effects. These substances may become objects of regulatory management in the future. These compounds have attracted widespread attention from all walks of life, and they are also a hot spot in scientific research. We also learned about environmental related laws and testing standards at the meeting, which can help our projects go to the market better. Hope that our team can work together with other iGEM teams and contribute to the improvement of pollutant management and environmental problems.
We are pleased to be part of the New Pollutants Alliance. In previous Human Practices, our team has come to realize the same problems that new pollutants face in our current society: inadequate legislation, incomplete monitoring systems, and toxicology that needs to be studied. The New Pollutants Alliance is an opportunity for us to look at this issue from a holistic and common perspective. During the workshop, our team discussed with experts, iGEMers, and people interested in this issue from the perspectives of research, public policy, and detection systems. This has certainly inspired our own project and deepened our understanding of the issue of novel pollutants.
New pollutants refer to pollutants caused by human activities, which have clearly existed but no relevant laws, regulations and standards have been stipulated or are imperfectly regulated, and endanger life and the ecological environment. The environmental estrogen targeted by HiZJU-China is one of them. During this year’s iGEM trip, we met teams that targeted the degradation of the other new pollutants. We formed a new pollutant alliance, held online meetings to share ideas, and jointly organized a workshop to optimize our projects. The workshop also played a role in disseminating science, which made the relatively unfamiliar concept of new pollutants no longer the elephant in the room, and can enter people's hearts and arouse their attention. To act together for the same goal, I think this is the meaning of the iGEM competition.
Through the initiation of the OUC_China team, we participated in establishing the New Pollutant Alliance and conducted a series of discussions. Through the sharing lecture of other teams, we got a deeper understanding of new environmental pollutants, which greatly enriched our background and supported our idea of taking advantage of our platform to continue to develop new target detection kits.
In the process of participating in the workshop, we had detailed exchanges with teachers, company staff, and team members. Next, all of our projects are discussed, including the legislation issues on environmental pollutants. It is still a long way before the public realizes the threatening of new environmental pollutants and regulates them formally, but it’s our duty to keep an eye on new substances. No matter detection or degradation, our goal is to come up with novel ideas and make the realization progress more quickly.
Finally, we jointly expressed our concern about the environment health and our expectation of making a difference to the local environment.