Team:Groningen/For the parents


Synthetic biology

Let's change the wheel and hope this thing does not turn into a car

Unlike conventional engineering, bioengineering has always lacked the predictability and reliability that lie at the heart of mechanical design. Designing a machine for a special task might be a challenging task but the interaction of the used components such as screws, gears, heaters, motors, switches etc. is not afflicted by unforeseeable events. Changing a tire or the breaks on a bike will not make it change colors or switch of the light. In biology the interactions of components is only predictable by models and not by the underlying physical forces. Tinkering with one part of a biological system can have consequences which seem totally unrelated. Hence most biological designs can not be planed in theory and later adapted, they have to be developed by a trial and error system which takes up a lot of time and resources. iGEM is creating a library of biological devices called biobricks which interact in a predictable manner and can be combined to execute certain tasks. This allows bioengineers to plan biological machines combining parts that do not interact naturally and predict their behavior. The biobricks are like instructions which can be combined to chains which will be executed by the cell which they inhabit. This is not unlike a computer program.

Igemgroningen reporter.jpg

The picture above represents such a program, the green arrow is a promoter, promoters are either turned on or off, each promoter is on or off due to certain conditions, lets say this one is on when the cell it inhabits is surrounded by a lot of salt. The green dot is a ribosome binding site (RBS), it is needed to assure the following command is executed, different RBS have different strengths. The light bulb represents a reporter gene, these are instructions for the cell to build a protein which is visible or measurable. Lets say this one is a red pigment. The red dot at the end is a terminator sequence it marks the end of the command chain. If this sequence would be inserted in a cell, this cell would turn red when it is placed in a salty environment.

This goes there! I'm sure the bacteria will know what to do with it

Our project

In our project we want to build a biological water repelling coating. In order to do so, we take the instruction for a protein which repels water and put it into an organism which naturally forms a coating. The result should be a coating which repels water. Such a coating would have many possible applications, often replacing toxic and expensive chemical coatings. In theory this sounds very simple, but the water repelling protein which we want to use does not exist as a biobrick jet. Which means we have to try it out and can't rely on it working. If it works, it will become a biobrick itself and can be used by other teams if they are in need for a water repelling protein.