Team:Valencia/Project

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Project Overview
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''A Blues for a Red Planet''</center>
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Project Overview</span></center>
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''Mad Yeasts On Mars'' is a peculiar project, even among the iGEM projects. It started with a kernel of a synthetic biology idea and it has spread in many different directions. It is easy to get lost but do not worry. This overview will give you a general idea of what this project is about and it will guide you through the whole wiki. Keep reading and join the dots with us.
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== Terraforming of Mars ==
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''Terraforming'' of a planetary body (planet or moon) or ''planetary ecosynthesis'' is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying its atmosphere composition, temperature, topography, or ecology to be similar to those of Earth to make it habitable for Terran organism, including humans. Terraforming is a common concept in science fiction. In fact, Jack Williamson, a science fiction writer, coined the term in 1942. But the first to use the concept was H.G. Wells in his ''The War of the Worlds'' (1898), where the martian invaders start a terraforming-reverse process in order to change our planet for their own benefit. Recent work in fiction exploring this concept includes the wonderful ''Mars Trilogy'' by Kim Stanley Robinson that has filled our dreams about the red planet with astonishing details
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The main objective of this project is to suggest and develop some tools from synthetic biology that could be applied in a terraforming process. In order to know a little bit more about what terraforming is go to [[:Team:Valencia/Terraforming | Terraforming section]]. Basically, terraforming is the process of making an environment habitable for life forms, especially human beings (us!). In this case, the scenario we proposed to terraform is, of course, Mars.
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[[Image:Valencia_robinson.jpg|thumb|center|600px|Kim Stanley Robinson with his ''Mars Trilogy'' has been one of the major inspirators of our work. They are really worth reading books.]]
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So, which synthetic biology tools are you going to develop? And what is going to be their function in a terraforming process?
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#Prionic Switch implemented in ''Saccharomices cerevisiae''. Hence the title of our project (''Mad Yeast On Mars'') due to the fact that the mad cows disease is originated by a prion. The function of this switch is regulating Mars temperature by controlling the production of a dark pigment. This pigment (e.g. melanin) can change the albedo of the planet. We call this section of the project[[:Team:Valencia/prion | Regulating Mars Temperature]].
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#LEA protein expression in ''Escherichia coli''. Its function is to protect the bacteria from extreme martian conditions, especially the extreme martian temperature ranges. The name of this part is [[:Team:Valencia/lea | Surviving Mars]].
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In the scientific field, the first one who talk about Terraforming of Mars was Carl Sagan (1971) in a technical review: ''Planetary engineering on Mars''. In [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzVYwyxidDY ''Blues for the Red Planet''], the fifth episode of his mythical television series '' Cosmos: A personal Voyage'', he exposes his ideas to the public. Sagan’s plan for terraforming of Mars implies seeding its polar casquets with dark plants. These plants will be artificially selected or genetically modified to resist and “survive” the harsh conditions of Mars climate. The positive point gained with this seeding  will be realeasing oxygen and darkening the martian surface, melting down the polar casquets and liberating the ancient martian atmosphere trapped in there. This fusion water could be transported to the equator by the construction of a network of channels, similarly to the one Percival Lowell believed an inexistent Martian civilization had constructed. Sagan’s opinion about the ethics of this terraforming process, in the case the planet result not sterile is categorical:
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It is at this point where ''Mad Yeasts On Mars'' project jumps from Synthetic Biology to Engineering. In order to carry out our experiments and to complement them we had to use, design and develop three different technologies or equipments.
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#The [[:Team:Valencia/RH | Red-House]]. Very soon we realized LEA protein protection against martian conditions was not going to be enough so we design and built a planetary incubator device (Green House + Red Planet = Red-House). This device, very related with the [[:Team:Valencia/lea | Surviving Mars]] part of our project, uses a renewable source of energy (wind power) to keep cultures warm inside of it.
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'' "If there is life on Mars, then I believe we should do nothing to disturb that life. Mars, then, belongs to the Martians, even if they are microbes."''
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#[[:Team:Valencia/MSC | Mars Simulation Chamber]]. We used a low pressure chamber in order to simulate the martian atmosphere. Using frozen carbon dioxide we created a very similar martian atmospheric composition. This was absolutely necessary in order to subject our cultures to real martian atmospheric conditions.
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#[[:Team:Valencia/WB | Microbial Albedo Recorder]]. We develop a piece of equipment that could measure the difference between the temperature and albedo of different color yeast cultures (melanin expressing and not expressing yeasts). This device is related with the [[:Team:Valencia/prion | Regulating Mars Temperature]] part of our project.
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[[Image:Valencia_sagan.jpg|thumb|center|250px|Carl Sagan, the first scientist who thought about terraforming of Mars, holds a model of the red planet in his hands (Hulton Archive/Getty Images).]]
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<img name="mad_yeast_on_mars" src="http://2010.igem.org/wiki/images/d/d3/Mad_yeast_on_mars.jpg" width="696" height="591" border="0" id="mad_yeast_on_mars" usemap="#m_mad_yeast_on_mars" alt="" />
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In the last years several review works about the concept of terraforming have appeared in the scientific literature. McKay and Marinova (2001) review the general aspects regarding the planetary ecosynthesis in the red planet and the ethics of that process. Graham (2004) has focused in the biological aspects of the creation of a biosphere on Mars and has delineated the stages of such a process. Finally Beech has written a book ''Terraforming: The Creation of Habitable Worlds'' (2009) in which the terraforming process is exhaustively analised. To delve deeper into this exciting process, we recommend the reading of such works and the introduction to the survey of the ethics of terraforming that we have written.
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===Our project===
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== Summary ==
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The implementation of the project has several sub-objectives.
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=== Martian conditions Simulation Chamber (MSC) ===
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Furthermore, we developed a simple model for our proposal of terraforming process that we call [[:Team:Valencia/Modeling | Yeastworld ]]. Our aim in this part of the project is the development of a model which describes how the different phenotypes of yeasts interact with the prion switch dynamics. This way we can see how the system behaves and finally how the stabilization of the planetary temperature is made when the system reaches a steady state.
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We reproduce some of the characteristics that make difficult the life in Mars with this chamber. Among them we can have the atmospheric pressure between 7 and 10 mbar and the gases composition (mainly carbon dioxid). Once we achieve this humble goal, we can use the MSC to try our engineered microorganisms and observe its behavior: if it grows, just only survives without growing or dies. It’s a very important part of the project because is an easy way to prove whether the microbes can grow or at least survive in an environment with such limitations as martian atmosphere can be.
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=== Red-house ===
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In the other hand, in the beginnings our microorganisms are going to need an appropriate (or cozy) environment to grow. Regarding this, we are going to build a Red-House (an analogy with a greenhouse but in the red planet) in order to preserve the growing cultures until the atmospheric conditions reach the proper values to the microbial growth. The Red-House is a device designed to protect the microorganisms from the harsh conditions of: temperature, pressure and radiation. Once the device is thermally isolated from the exterior media, we are trying to warm its interior with electricity generated using wind turbines.
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The idea to make this device was inspired by the reading of Robinson's ''Red Mars'' in wich the first martian colonist spread windmills to seed microorganism over the surface of Mars.
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=== Prionic Switch test ===
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The third phase is the test of the prionic switch in the original configuration. We want to test how the prionic switch respond to heat shock and another stress inputs, and if it inhibits the expression of the betaGAL reporter.
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In this situation we also want to see the effect of “the color” of the cultures in its surface temperature. Hopefully betaGAL blue is better (warmer) than white and red (Martian red).
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=== LEA Experiments in E. Coli ===
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The fourth part involves dealing with violent temperature changes of the Martian surface. To do this we will implement the expression of LEA (late embryogenesis abundant) “antifreeze” protein. Thus, we want to verify the resistance to cold shock and salt stress of the E. coli cultures who which express LEA and compare this result with the ones who doesn't (control cultures).
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This brings the new problem of which control cultures we shall use. The same E.coli with the pM2 plasmid but without the insert (this is probably the best option but the more difficult one) What happened with this issue guys???
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=== Expresing LEA in Yeasts ===
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The fifth part is to express LEA in Saccharomices Cereviciae. We have the W303 strain. We need to put together the LEA gene in an expression vector for Eukaryotes with a constitutive promoter and probably with a HSP promoter. (Update on this topic, please)
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=== Melanin sinthesis modulation in Yeasts with a temperature activated prionic switch  ===
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Finally we carried out a quite lengthy [[:Team:Valencia/Ethics | ethical report]] that covers a variety of issues from environmental ethics, social problems, religious debates and some interviews with researchers about the idea of terraforming and colonizing other worlds.
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Explanation needed here (Jose maybe???)
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Latest revision as of 22:21, 27 October 2010


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Project Overview

A Blues for a Red Planet

Mad Yeasts On Mars is a peculiar project, even among the iGEM projects. It started with a kernel of a synthetic biology idea and it has spread in many different directions. It is easy to get lost but do not worry. This overview will give you a general idea of what this project is about and it will guide you through the whole wiki. Keep reading and join the dots with us.

The main objective of this project is to suggest and develop some tools from synthetic biology that could be applied in a terraforming process. In order to know a little bit more about what terraforming is go to Terraforming section. Basically, terraforming is the process of making an environment habitable for life forms, especially human beings (us!). In this case, the scenario we proposed to terraform is, of course, Mars.

So, which synthetic biology tools are you going to develop? And what is going to be their function in a terraforming process?

  1. Prionic Switch implemented in Saccharomices cerevisiae. Hence the title of our project (Mad Yeast On Mars) due to the fact that the mad cows disease is originated by a prion. The function of this switch is regulating Mars temperature by controlling the production of a dark pigment. This pigment (e.g. melanin) can change the albedo of the planet. We call this section of the project Regulating Mars Temperature.
  2. LEA protein expression in Escherichia coli. Its function is to protect the bacteria from extreme martian conditions, especially the extreme martian temperature ranges. The name of this part is Surviving Mars.

It is at this point where Mad Yeasts On Mars project jumps from Synthetic Biology to Engineering. In order to carry out our experiments and to complement them we had to use, design and develop three different technologies or equipments.

  1. The Red-House. Very soon we realized LEA protein protection against martian conditions was not going to be enough so we design and built a planetary incubator device (Green House + Red Planet = Red-House). This device, very related with the Surviving Mars part of our project, uses a renewable source of energy (wind power) to keep cultures warm inside of it.
  2. Mars Simulation Chamber. We used a low pressure chamber in order to simulate the martian atmosphere. Using frozen carbon dioxide we created a very similar martian atmospheric composition. This was absolutely necessary in order to subject our cultures to real martian atmospheric conditions.
  3. Microbial Albedo Recorder. We develop a piece of equipment that could measure the difference between the temperature and albedo of different color yeast cultures (melanin expressing and not expressing yeasts). This device is related with the Regulating Mars Temperature part of our project.



Furthermore, we developed a simple model for our proposal of terraforming process that we call Yeastworld . Our aim in this part of the project is the development of a model which describes how the different phenotypes of yeasts interact with the prion switch dynamics. This way we can see how the system behaves and finally how the stabilization of the planetary temperature is made when the system reaches a steady state.

Finally we carried out a quite lengthy ethical report that covers a variety of issues from environmental ethics, social problems, religious debates and some interviews with researchers about the idea of terraforming and colonizing other worlds.