Team:Gaston Day School


Detection of Heavy Metal Contaminants in Water

Despite improvements in water quality, contaminants still interfere with farming in many of the world’s biomes. For 2013 the Gaston Day School iGEM team’s project is to help solve this problem by using the existing registry of parts to create new heavy metal detectors. We have shifted our project from last year’s cadmium, arsenic, and lead detectors in order to focus on cadmium contaminants in water. This metal is known to be used in insecticides, fungicides, and fertilizers and is also a byproduct of industrial processes such as smelting. If ingested it can cause numerous health problems including cancer and pulmonary edema. To detect this metal, we constructed the sensor by using a cadmium sensitive promoter and an activator which are upstream from a stronger promoter. This should help amplify the original cadmium promoter's signal. Then we combined it with a GFP reporter to create the new part. GFP was used because our spectrophotometer can accurately measure it.

Once the part was created, it was tested for accuracy and sensitivity. Many farmers need a way to measure the amount of cadmium in water to determine whether the levels are dangerous; therefore, the improved cadmium detector must be sensitive enough to detect cadmium at or below the federal limits in water to be effective. As the project continues, we plan to test the safety of the engineered bacteria and create survivorship curves as they are released into different environments, similar to last year’s testing. Once this detector is functional, a final kit could be developed that include the heavy metal detectors and all components necessary to run, accurately measure, and safely dispose of the tests. This kit would help agricultural and environmental fields make improvements in safety.

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