Team:PuiChing Macau

Below is an introduction for this project:

Currently, flame retardant materials are known to be hazardous against both the environment and the human body. To elaborate, chemicals antimony trioxide, boric acid, zinc borate, decabromodiphenyl oxide and melamine found in inorganic fire retardants may induce cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, or organ failure. In addition, TBBPA, PBDEs, PCBs from organohalogen-based fire retardants have also been proved to be endocrine-disrupting chemicals that act as either antagonists or agonists at receptor sites of androgen, progesterone, and estrogen.

Inspired by this issue, the objective of our project is to develop an engineered recombinant E.coli strain that allows the production of a novel eco-friendly and harmless flame retardant. Despite previous iGEM teams and research groups have already attempted to manufacture environmentally-friendly flame retardant proteins, the proteins they have produced show poor retainability on the surfaces of objects and would be washed away easily which prohibits the practical applications of their proteins.

To address this problem, we engineered E. coli to produce flame retardant proteins with human SR protein and alpha-casein protein, of which, are molecules registered by the previous 2015 Mingdo iGEM team and the 2019 Duesseldorf's iGEM team, respectively. In addition to our attempt, an improvement approach of iGEM flame retardant systems was included, involving the fusion of surface adhering proteins derived from cellulose-binding domain and mussel adhesive proteins that aim for adaptation to achieve long-term retention of the protein on the object's surface.

Through procedures mentioned, the experimental results proved that our manufactured protein expresses significant fire retardancy and sustainability, acting in correspondence with our predictions in previous modeling results. Moreover, the vertical burning test conducted in our project for flame retardancy evaluation has displayed as a seem-to-be promising method for future iGEM teams to test their flame retardants, given that it is convenient and simple.

As a result, a sustainable and environmentally friendly flame retardant is developed in this project, displaying a promising future to replace traditional flame retardants and eventually improve the fire retardancy of current building materials.