Measuring mercury concentration through synthetic bacteria
Source : Wikimedia Commons
To design and produce a biosensor that can detect and measure the concentration of mercury in water: that is the ambitious aim of the eleven Grenoble students taking part in the 8th edition of the international synthetic biology competition iGEM.
More than 150 teams are participating in the 2011 iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines) competition, including, for the first time, a team from Grenoble. These eleven students from different disciplines will present a project in the environmental field, designing and producing a biosensor that can detect and measure the concentration of a pollutant – namely mercury – in water.
In order to complete their project, they must use DNA fragments listed in a standards library – ‘BioBricks’ – to build a system with new biological functions. Having designed and tested their system, they must produce it and get it to work in living cells.
The bacteria built using the ‘BioBricks’ behave differently according to the mercury concentration. If integrated in a test plate, this new biological system would, once a sample was added to the plate, allow a visual reading of the quantity of mercury in the sample.
© iGEM Grenoble 2011
The students are working closely with the seven Grenoble laboratories, which are providing high-level supervision. The Inria Ibis team, for instance, is playing an active role in the project, providing guidance to the students on the modelling of the bacterial systems. In synthetic biology, modelling is essential, as it allows the evolution of the system to be assessed with all the parameters taken into account. It also makes it possible to perform test constructions and therefore to predict the behaviour of the system before it is manufactured.
The Grenoble iGEM team will present its project at the preliminary round in Amsterdam on 1 and 2 October 2011. Only a few teams will then be selected to take part in the final in Boston and compete for the Grand Prize.
iGEM - International Genetically Engineered Machines
Run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston since 2003, the international competition iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines) gets undergraduate university students involved in synthetic biology projects.
This discipline, which combines elements of biology, engineering, chemistry and computer science, aims to use engineering principles to design, build and synthesise new biological systems or functions.
All the work produced as part of the competition is freely available.
- Regional Jamboree
October 1-2, 2011
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- World Championship Jamboree
November 5-7, 2011
MIT Boston, Massachussetts, USA
Grenoble INP - Phelma,
Systems and Microsystems for Physics and Biotechnology