This year, we engineered the metabolic pathways of E. coli and V. natriegens to produce pigments, pigment precursors, and an oxidase laccase. Expressed pigments or the combination of pigment precursors and oxidants are filtered and used to dye human hair. The dyeing requires the polymerization of pigment molecules. We aim to efficiently produce desired products and natural, long-lasting hair dyes that are harmless to the hair and scalp.
We used E. coli BL21, E. coli DH5α, and V. natriegens ATCC 14048 as our chassis organisms. The plasmids we ordered were stored in E. coli TOP10. Our bacteria are not pathogenic in humans.
Acrylamide was used in SDS-PAGE electrophoresis. We strictly abided by the lab safety rules and followed the standard protocol while performing the electrophoresis.
We tried to dye hair using synthesized pigments or pigment precursors combined with laccase. Some of our hair was bought on the Internet while others were from instructors or teammates, but all of the hair was cut off before performing any experiments on them. We treated them in the same way as we treated other lab waste to prevent release.
Although not achieved this year, our project's final goal is to produce a hair-dye product that will use biosynthesized pigments, pigment precursors, or enzymes. When we surveyed 484 people (more information can be found on our Human Practices page), we found that many people still doubt our potential product's safety and effectiveness. We will need to do a lot of testing on different hair and scalp models, various models, and finally, a group of real people before launching this product into the market.
Photos of our laboratory.