Team:Imperial College/Project Evolution

From 2013.igem.org

This page explains how our ideas developed and how we implemented our human practices in the design and implementation of our project.

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We were shocked by the effects the large production of waste, particularly plastic, were and are having. We thoroughly investigated the impacts and methods of waste management and decided we could add to the current system by offering a disposal route for plastics which would reduce environmental harm and provide a way to recover the resources in the waste.






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Our original thought was to produce biofuel from the waste. However, the 8% of annual crude oil production which is used in the production of plastics would be lost after incineration. We wanted to produce a sustainable product which could be used in a circular economy, keeping the carbon in the plastics out of the atmosphere. Producing poly-3-hydroxybutyrate from the waste can do just that and can lead to a reduction in dependence on oil derived plastics in the first place.






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On our visit to the mixed recovery facility (MRF) Powerday we had a meeting with one of the managers and discussed the waste industry. We found that our original plan was not realistic in the current industrial setting as the plastics we wanted to degrade still have a lot of value. They can also already be recycled providing they are large enough to be separated. Reinforcing our meeting with Imperial’s waste management services, we were informed that it is the mixed waste that is the issue. This is a large expense for the MRFs. They must pay to dispose of the waste, this amounts to millions of pounds a year. In this case this involves shipping the waste to Europe where it is incinerated. It was at this point that we decided to use this mixed waste. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of it are produced each year which cannot currently be recycled and MRF owners are searching for a cheaper and greener option. This is how Resource-full waste was developed.


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We next wanted to understand how our proposed technology could be implemented in the real world and what sort of legislation regulates and promotes waste management technologies. We visited London City Hall which governs the Greater London Authority. Here we met with the head of the Waste and Energy team to discuss our project. We discovered that the mixed waste we are targeting is exactly the sort of thing that British and European waste management programs aim to utilise; maximising recovery and recycling of these materials, adding value to them. This led us to work out how we can industrially implement the technology. We also began to understand how waste management is not simply a technical issue and one which actually has a hierarchy of factors which govern legislation. Minimising waste production is the most important factor. Since we are producing a commodity we considered how we could prevent our P3HB ending up as waste itself and recover the materials from it. This led to the development of Plastic Fantastic, with the aim of recycling P3HB back to a useable form after use.


Project Genesis

Brainstorming

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Being inspired at SB6

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Sharing ideas at YSB

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Brainstorming ideas:

Bacterial Consortia

Control of synthetic microbial consortia is a desirable step in achieving increased potential in the field of synthetic biology. Advantages include the production of more complicated metabolites, the ability to optimize individual pathway production, higher level logic gates and into the future, self regulating communities, approaching the abilities of multicellular organisms. Populations in a community interact in different ways producing mutualisms, commensalisms and parasitisms. In order to rationally control communities we must understand how these different relations can form. Investigations in synthetic systems have focused on mutual dependence through the use of auxotrophic strains, toxin-antitoxin systems and antibiotic resistance modules. Control systems are currently based upon chemically relieved transcriptional repression which is precise in neither time or space. We aim to utilize different light inducible two component systems to control community interactions. We will use this to control the mutual dependency and investigate the conditions under which the above relationships form. We will also disturb the system to investigate the exchange of metabolites as an analogue to a financial system.

Synthesis of a biological scaffold using bacteria

Our project looks at generating self-sustaining Turing patterns from quorum sensing molecule AIP and bacterial swimming in a B. subtilis chassis. Once the Turing patterns are formed, the cells propagate until they reach high density, upon which they begin biosynthesis of two biomolecular polymers: γ-PGA and bacterial collagen. These are secreted into the ECM, forming a biocompatible, non-immunogenic, and bio-degradable matrix that contains pores and is able to absorb water. Removing the bacteria is then achieved in a non-invasive means by using the magnetosome within the bacteria to displace them from the scaffold, which can then be prepared for stem cell seeding or use in addition to this an ECM protein that binds to the matrix and has the capability of augmenting catalytic efficiency.

OR

Our project looks at generating self-sustaining Turing patterns from the use of bioluminescence and bacterial swimming in a B. subtilis chassis. Once the Turing patterns are formed, the cells propagate until they reach high density, upon which they begin biosynthesis of two biomolecular polymers: γ-PGA and bacterial collagen. These are secreted into the ECM, forming a biocompatible, non-immunogenic, and bio-degradable matrix that contains pores and is able to absorb water. Bacteria will not excrete these proteins in the presence of blue light. Removing the bacteria is then achieved in a non-invasive means by using the magnetosome within the bacteria to displace them from the scaffold, which can then be prepared for stem cell seeding or use in addition to this an ECM protein that binds to the matrix and has the capability of augmenting catalytic efficiency.

RNA world: orthogonal system to report on internal environment of E.coli cells in real time

Our system is designed to report the internal metabolic environment of cells through an RNA- only pathway. The advantage for relying on RNA for this signalling process is for speed, rather than relying on the time and resource consuming process of gene expression. The input of this system is the different metabolites within the cell. Different metabolites can bind to different RNA aptamers to induce a conformational change in the RNA and exposure of a sequence which displaces with one strand in an RNA biosensor. The second strand in the biosensor is then free to anneal with and change conformation of other RNAs, in a specific manner. This exposes different RNA-fluorophore aptamers and causes fluorescence. Different metabolites will produce a different palette of fluorescence. After generating a toolbox for this process, we could expand this technology to regulatory functions and utilizing different cell types.

Dopamine Production and Release in E. coli

Our project aims to engineer E. coli to produce a therapeutically important neurotransmitter, dopamine, by rewiring EnvZ-OmpR two-component system. We focus on activating dopamine production from tyrosine in response to a symptom of hypertension. Potential input signals could be concentration changes in oxygen, triglycerides and glucose. Once stimulated, EnvZ-OmpC TCS induces expression of enzymes involved in dopamine synthetic pathway. Therefore, the engineered E .coli forms an automated machine that efficiently controls the blood pressure without the need of frequent blood pressure check.


Our Sponsors

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