After all that, how will the world use our project?
Implementation of the biosensor in real life circumstances:
We want to be pioneers in the fast in situ detection of EDCs not only in Mexico but in the world. As we learned during the interviews we made to several experts (the information about the experts interviewed can be found here), there isn’t any norm or regulation that enforces quality of water regarding the presence of EDCs. They don’t take into account that after water gets in a bottle, it may be subjected to conditions that may lead to its contamination with microplastics or Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals.
So, how do we want to implement our sensor? We want to focus mainly on four portions of the market:
Bottled water companies looking to improve the quality of their products.
Regulatory agencies that monitor the amount of EDCs in samples of bottled water.
Organizations that advocate for the security and cleanliness of water.
People that want to guarantee a safe consumption of drinking water.
If we lower our costs enough, companies will be willing to invest in Quality Assurance and would definitely prefer to use a biosensor that is easy and inexpensive to use, compared to more elaborate methods of detection that usually require costly materials and equipment.
Regulatory agencies would be interested in it too; if our sensor proves to be precise on its measurements, it could be used by specialists who have to measure samples of water to enforce norms. Organizations could also take advantage of our sensor, since they could use it to monitor contamination not only in drinking water but in lakes, rivers and other bodies of water. Finally, people who decide to get this device would find an easy way of being sure that what they are drinking is safe. In order to accomplish this goal, we made the sensor as easy to use as we could, with a user friendly interface, an attractive and small design that could be carried anywhere, a resistant chassis to hold everything together and a user guide to show everyone how to use it and how it works.
It is also worth noting, that due to the fact that our sensor doesn’t contain any living organism, the risks involved in its release to the public are minimal. However, in order to create a quality product, we must adhere to the most strict rules and regulations, ensuring the safest conditions for its manufacturing.
We want to normalize the use of biosensors
Another objective we have in the long run is to normalize the use of biosensors as a way of measuring other pollutants in water. We would like to see other iGEM teams improve upon the idea we exposed during this year’s project and further develop our biosensor or even create sensors of their own.
Some limitations we might encounter
Not everything has been smooth sailing. We’ve got a serious problem with the standardization of protocols and it would be difficult for us to make every sensor equal. Nonetheless, we hope that through more experimentation and data collection, we will achieve a level of quality that will be more than enough to fulfill our objectives. We also expect to get feedback from users about our interface, our model and our project in general. The beauty of engineering is that our work is in constant improvement and the job is never quite done.
Purification with laccase, what to expect?
When we first thought about the sensor, we knew that it was only half of the solution; besides detecting EDCs we had to eliminate them. Many teams have already planned some solutions to meet this end and usually, water treatment facilities don’t worry about the degradation of these compounds because they use filtering systems such as reverse osmosis. However, if we manage to reduce the costs of degrading compounds via enzymatic degradation, we could potentially implement it as a step in the treatment of residual waters. Our main goal was to characterize and establish a protocol in which we could obtain a Laccase for its massive production. In the future we plan on expanding the production of the Laccase we worked with and design a system which could serve as a unit operation of a treatment facility.
And about the project we developed for a novel selection marker…
Although we didn’t get the results we expected due to lack of time, we see a lot of potential in this project. The widespread use of antibiotics is a problem that concerns us; so, if successful, we plan on introducing this new selection marker in every laboratory in every corner of the world. Our main goal is to substitute the use of antibiotics with a compound found in every lab: glycerol. We hope that others use our designed E. coli strain alongside our plasmid to select transformed bacteria and make genetic engineering protocols safer.