Welcome to UChicago's iGEM 2021!

This year, our team has chosen to tackle pharmaceutical pollution in major waterways. More specifically, we chose to find ways to degrade Triclosan, a common antibacterial found in Lake Michigan using the enzyme Laccase. Given our remote platform, we learned to use Molecular Dynamics simulations to analyze the way Laccase and Triclosan interact with one another. Through this process, we created a new wealth of resources for undergraduate teams that want to use Molecular Dynamics simulations in their work.

Project Description

Lake Michigan serves as the water supply for 48 million people and supports a vast and interconnected ecosystem. But recently, pharmaceutical pollutants have found their way into our water. From farms, hospitals, and unused medications, chemicals are seeping into the lake with harmful consequences. Excess antibiotics overturn the ecosystem’s careful microbial balance, in addition to exacerbating antibiotic resistance and rendering medical treatments ineffective. These chemicals are toxic to keystone species such as algae and are ingested by wildlife where it undergoes biomagnification - potentially finding its way back to us.

One such pollutant is triclosan, an antibacterial agent present in 93% of gels, foams, and soaps marketed as “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial”. Triclosan works by inhibiting fatty acid synthesis, and bacterial resistance to triclosan is also cross-linked to antibiotic resistance, which makes this chemical all the more troubling. It has been found as one of the top 4 pollutants in Lake Michigan, making this chemical a pressing local threat. Read more