There is an interesting story about the birth of our project.
One day, at a group meeting, one of our members had too much coffee the night before, which caused insomnia that night. As a result, he slept through the whole group meeting the following day. Inspired by this, we decided to explore the effects of caffeine on the human bodies. Through questionnaires and crowd interviews, we found that caffeine sensitivity is plaguing many people. After literature research and discussions with our instructor, we found the enzyme system that degrades caffeine, and from there, we built a comprehensive system to help users better manage their caffeine intake. Then, our project DeCaffi was born.
Nowadays, with the popularity of caffeinated beverages, more and more people are troubled by caffeine sensitivity. Excessive caffeine intake is now becoming an important factor affecting people's health. Based on such background, we put forward our DeCaffi Project.
Based on the basic concepts and methods of synthetic biology, combined with user-friendly software and hardware design, guided and validated by mathematical modeling, we aim to build a comprehensive caffeine intake management system and provide users with scientific and proper caffeine intake recommendations.
To support the design of our project, there are three main parts in experiments.
1. Obtaining all two enzymes and two coenzymes to construct a cell-free enzyme-catalyzed degradation system
2. Enhancing heat resistance of related enzymes using directed evolution and rational design
3. Improving biosynthetic efficiency of enzymes and coenzymes
4. Verifying that this cell-free system can work effectively in coffee
From our design, we successfully achieved biosynthesis of Cdh, CkTcS and CoQ0 at higher efficiency, which can be used in industrial production. At the same time, we use multiple ways to improve our cell-free system’s adaptation to the coffee environment. You can find a detailed description of the design of our project below.
This year we have designed 18 parts by ourselves. Among these parts, 12 are basic parts and others are composite parts. Due to some parts have been designed by previous teams, so we quote their parts in the design of our composite parts. The function, the safety, the efficiency and other factors are considered seriously to ensure they can execute according to our original design. You can click on each part’s name to learn more about our parts and our project.
Our modeling mainly focuses on the verification of project design feasibility, and also provides algorithmic models for our applets. Firstly, compared the “Tea Pack” caffeine removal method with the “Smart Coffee Cup” removal method, we are trying to find their own advantages and disadvantages based on fluid thermodynamics and enzyme kinetic equations.
For the “Tea Pack” design, we discovered that we do not need to add too much Cdh when producing it. By heat stability analysis, we found that our tea pack, where the stability of CkTcS was optimized by PROSS, can be saved for half a year. For the “Smart Coffee Cup”, we designed a pressure-based flow rate control system to control the output caffeine concentration. As users’ data is hard to be calculated directly, we designed a neural network to learn from their historical data and offer them an individualized caffeine intake scheme. Our model also pointed out that this network can be used to instruct the user how to drink coffee healthily, for example, to help the user get rid of the addiction of caffeine.
The main work of hardware is to build a smart cup, which can not only serve as a container for caffeine degradation reaction, but also provide hardware support for the applets we make. The specific achievements mainly include:
1. Preparation of caffeine enzyme electrode;
2. Enzyme immobilization scheme;
3. Cup shape design and internal circuit implementation;
4. Production of Bluetooth module;
5. Design and manufacture the model our smart cup through 3D printing
We have built an applets based on WeChat miniprogram platform, to help our users get a better handle on their caffeine intake amount. Three major modules have been included in our applets to provide all-through functions. 1. We collected healthy condition of registered users through the static form they submit and the real-time detected data of our hardware bracelets.
2. We calculate caffeine intake amount with original algorithm, and currently we use the model built from common people.
3. Bluetooth function was added to our app to transfer data to the hardware solution of our team, thus providing users a more convenient way to input valid amount.
Our integrated human practices ran through the whole process of our project, and built a close loop between raw material processor, product producer and consumer group. After communicating with the director of “Half Half Coffee” about the future of coffee and the impact of caffeine in various beverage on human body, we expanded our work from degradation of caffeine to helping people better manage their caffeine intake, and expand the application object from coffee to all caffeine containing beverages. With this clear goal, we set out to communicate with scholars, companies, coffee shops and conducted literature research. Those findings through the interviews led us to design a convenient and user-friendly coffee cup and the supporting WeChat applets. Moreover, through teaching and science activities, we hope to combine the knowledge of synthetic biology with daily life and popularize it to the public of all ages, which is in line with the aim of “inclusion” in iGEM. In addition, we are preparing to build an online educational resource sharing platform for those teams who want to take part in iGEM in the future.