MIT iGEM 2010

The 2010 MIT iGEM team. We are biological engineers, physicists, electrical engineers, chemical engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists.
Programmable, Self-constructing Biomaterials

The 2010 MIT iGEM team focused on the control and production of self-constructing and self-repairing living biomaterials through both bacterial and mammalian engineering. We ventured to set up the framework for material formation in both types of cells, for future applications in living, self-repairing materials and in vitro organogenesis respectively.

We have accomplished far beyond what we expected of ourselves! In addition to our project, we have created a new Mammalian Biobrick standard, contributed original parts for mammalian cells and bacteriophage, and we have biobricked two working toggles for the registry.

     Materials technology is a rapidly advancing field with research going into new methods of nanomaterial design. The biggest problem with nanomaterials is that the creators (us, humans) are on a completely different length scale when compared to the intricate materials we desire to create. Our project strives to take small steps in the direction of nanomaterials by utilizing nano-sized cells--both bacterial and mammalian--and phages as units in our self-assembling biomaterial.
     Our goal is to create a system within cells that can convert a 2D design visible to the human eye into a 3D biostructure of phage or bone with the cross section of that same design. Our cells will be able to sense elements of the macro, human world, process them through the biological machinery of cells, and output a self-assembling structure. Our mammalian team was motivated by the idea of the cellular “touch pad,” and are utilizing mechano-sensing promoters to allow mammalian cells to sense pressure and produce bone in response. The bacterial team is using the SOS response to DNA damage from UV radiation and quorum sensing (chemical signaling system for bacteria) as stimuli to have bacteria secrete bacteriophage. The bacteriophage will polymerize into a polymer and form a “living” structure. Both teams are integrating a toggle switch into the system, allowing us to consistently control the cell’s response to the stimuli.
     We are currently testing and debugging our system. With the use of microfludics devices, we are screening a library of mammalian promoters for a promoter that will feed into a bi-stable toggle circuit which will promote the expression of a protein that induces bone formation. For the bacterial cells, tests have already been conducted to test the reliability of our BioBrick parts to control whether or not a visible marker is produced in response to UV exposure.
     By the end of the summer, we want our project to be able to showcase the capability of indirectly controlling the production of an organized biostructure. With the integration of multiple visible markers, user-directed design will be able to stimulate the production of a multichromatic design on the bacterial lawn, along with a tangible biostructure. And our mammalian project will have developed into a fully working system within mammalian cells that can produce bone.