We partnered up with SZU-China, which produces dyes to dye jeans. We talked to each other about wet lab, dry lab, and judging details throughout the project.
We met SZU-China at CCiC (Conference of China iGEMer Community). We leraned that they were trying to produce bio-indigo to dye jeans and that they hit a bottleneck in this experiment. Since we were also failing to produce indigo at the time, we decided to discuss this problem and work together to solve it.
In order to troubleshoot our project, we held numerous discussions and shared some lab data. We established a partnership: iDYE and moved on exchanging our experience in Human Practices and Public Engagement as well.
Logos of iDYE, SZU-China, and Shanghai_SFLS_SPBS
Discussion & exchange of ideas
To better understand each other's project, we held an online meeting in the beginning. We introduced our projects in detail and specifically discussed bioproduction and applications of indigo.
We also exchanged what we had learned about dyes through Human Practices. We talked about our visit to Hanjin Beauty & Hair Co., Ltd. and the talk to a hairdresser at Fazhixiu. We explained the harms of hair dyes and problems in extraction of natural dyes with present methods.
SZU-China visited a weaving and dyeing company and a jeans-washing water factory in Zhongshan. They were concerned with water pollution in dyeing and the strong odor of harmful chemicals in the factory, and would therefore like to focus their project on reducing pollution.
After a deep discussion over topics such as health and pollution, we decided to use synthetic biology methods to reduce pollution and health concerns.
When we first talked to SZU-China, we were also unable to produce indigo in E. coli BL21 or V. natriegens: all bacterial solutions became red or orange. We suspected that our plasmid was incorrect, so we borrowed the plasmid from iGEM 2019 GreatBay_SZ to try a different plasmid. However, when we tried that plasmid in E. coli BL21 and V. natriegens, we again acquired an orange-reddish color.
After discussion with SZU-China, we hypothesized that this may have been due to overexpression of FMO and oxidization of indigo to isatin. We decided to try producing indigo with a different bacterial strain, DH5α, and acquired positive results.
SZU-China successfully produced indigo with DH5α as well. However, when they tried to increase the amount of substrates added, they got the orange-reddish color. We hypothesized that it was the same reason - overexpression of FMO. They then switched to Gardenia Blue to make a greater variety of colors.
We also used Gardenia Blue from SZU-China to dye hair. Using the same method as that for indigo and melanin, we were able to acquire blue-grey hair.
Hair-dyeing results with Gardenia Blue synthesized by SZU-China. Left: Gardenia Blue; right: negative control (water).
SZU-China organized the iDYE workshop to popularize our projects, scientific experiments, and synthetic biology. We provided them with various dyes, which were put on display. Unfortunately, due to traveling restrictions during COVID-19, we were unable to go there and help more in organization. Participants of the workshop used food-grade Gardenia blue to dye cloth. This event drew the interest of many students in Shenzhen University.
Photos from the iDYE workshop. Poster made & photos taken by members of SZU-China.