[ Project Description ]
Our story so far...
About three years ago our iGEM team visited a fishmeal factory. But, why a fishmeal factory out of all the resources our country offers? Because we learned that the fishing industry is affected by heavy metal contamination due to illegal gold mining in the Amazon that releases these toxic substances into the aquatic system. After meeting with TASA (the fishing company, and our sponsor) we decided to conduct some research and take a look into the environmental and biological issues they face. We settled on working with Cadmium, since it is the most prevalent heavy metal they face issues with. The consequences of having high concentrations of toxic metals decreases the global competitiveness of their product, since many countries have banned products with specific concentrations of heavy metals. Also, since they required a detector that would not only signify the presence of cadmium but would also detect the concentration of cadmium, we decided to pursue a bioassay model.
Our peruvian soil, water, and air is contaminated by a heavy metal by the name of cadmium. This heavy metal infiltrates our bodies through the food that we eat. This element is exposed to our environment through human activities such as illegal mining where the heavy metal is used to facilitate their mining. Because of that, cadmium can end up in rivers where the toxic metal can be consumed by both plants and animals and as humans we end up consuming the intoxicated plants and animals. The intoxication in the human body can lead to kidney, liver, lung, and neurological damage.
Synthetic Biology Engineering
Our project centers on using a cell-free system to detect the concentration of Cadmium in fresh anchovies on fishing boats, before the production of fishmeal. We plan to freeze-dry the Sigma 70 Master Mix, from our sponsor Arbor Biosciences, onto paper strips to eventually create a dip-stick-like detection system. When this dip-stick is placed in a blended anchovy sample, it will express a shade of red which we can measure comparatively to gauge the concentration of Cadmium.
For this project, we designed the BBa_K3466000 plasmid to detect the presence of Cadmium. In the plasmid, the MerR protein represses the PcadA promoter. When Cadmium is present, the MerR protein is released and RFP is expressed. Additionally, we created 6 alternative versions of the part to test if different characteristics changed the efficiency of the plasmid.
Please visit our parts page to view the 6 alternative versions of the part.
Education & Science Communication
As one of two iGEM teams in Peru and one of the only ones in South America, we find it very important to educate our local community about synthetic biology and our project. This year, we have carried out various projects in order to share our knowledge with other members of our community while adapting to the boundaries of quarantine and self-distancing.
Integrated Human Practices
TASA (Tecnologia de Alimentos SA) has been our sponsor and collaborator during the execution of the project. We periodically present them our progress and they provide us with useful feedback that guides us toward the future by letting us know which of our decisions and ideas are best suited to their needs. They also continuously inform us about the production of fishmeal, data regarding the state of fishmeal, as well as other vital information for the development of the project.
Here at hardware we initially created a bioassay as a means to incubate the bacteria to detect Cadmium in fishmeal products that have been diluted into the bacterial liquid on a boat. However, after discussions with TASA we shifted ideas and decided to use a cell free system instead as it’s easier to educate the fishermen about its use and it does not require the maintenance of living organisms. Since we have changed our focus, the our bioassay is no longer necessary for the implementation of our solution, which is why we have decided to turn our bioassay into a shaking incubator for the use of iGEM teams around the world who don’t have direct access to a lab. This will inspire and abilitate more people as well as teams to explore the field of synthetic biology.