Lead is a heavy metal that can contaminate potable water through lead pipes, solder, paint, and household fixtures. This potentially fatal heavy metal is a neurotoxin that accumulates in soft tissue and bones, leading to neurological disorders. In 2017, exposure to lead caused one million deaths worldwide. Current water filtration solutions are effective; however, they are not affordable, sustainable, or renewable.
Our team is using synthetic biology to genetically engineer a bacteria that measures the concentration of lead in water, and naturally filters the lead out. We will use the Klebsiella michiganensis bacteria as a biofilter to isolate and separate lead ions from water. Three fluorescent proteins will be added to the bacteria and used to express the level of lead concentration in water.
By genetically engineering a common and well studied bacteria, we can ensure that our lead filtration device will be cheaper than current solutions to lead contamination. Our device will also be sustainable, since K. michiganensis secretes natural bioflocculants that will not pollute the surrounding environment during the lead filtration process.
Our device is an affordable, environmentally friendly solution to provide clean water and help with the global water pollution crisis. In the future we hope to implement our solution on a bigger scale and introduce our device to communities suffering from lead contamination. We hope that the greater scientific community can use our findings to further our collective goal of finding the best solution for filtering lead out of contaminated water.
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Watch our promotional video to learn more about our project. Be sure to like the video and leave us a comment! Check out our video here.
Frostenson, S. (2017, April 27). 1.2 million children in the US have lead poisoning. We're only treating half of them. Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/4/27/15424050/us-underreports-lead-poisoning-cases-map-community
Hauptman, M., Bruccoleri, R., & Woolf, A. (2017, September). An Update on Childhood Lead Poisoning. Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5645046/