Our Project - at a glance

The team were initially interested in the role of nitric oxide (NO) in biological systems and were aiming to produce a BioBrick that can sense NO within an environment, report on the levels, and go on to make relevant and desirable changes.

While researching possible promoters that can be used to detect NO, we decided to hybridise two promoter elements; PyeaR, a bacterial promoter, and the NS2E9 element, found in mammals. Both promoters, when on their own, use NO as an inducer molecule. The team aim to use a chassis of ''Escherichia coli'' in order to characterise the hybridised promoter, before investigating its competency within a mammalian cell chassis (MCF7, Michigan Cancer Foundation cell line variant 7, cells) for future applications within a medical system. We also aim to characterise various promoters produced by previous iGEM teams, especially those involved with sensing physiologically-relevant molecules and reporting with fluorescence or bioluminescence.

The team then turned their attention to developing the comparator circuit, a new system they feel will revolutionise transcriptional regulation via the formation of mRNA duplexes that sequester the translation of any gene after the comparator circuit biobrick. We hope, using "Escherichia coli" and a number of standard reporter biobricks, to show the functionality of this protein knock-out system and also introduce it to the registry.

Possible applications we see for both projects include; cancer therapeutics, where NO levels are detected and raised above the level at which it aids angiogenesis and into the levels at which it is toxic to a tumour; and environmental aspects, where the bio-sensor may be attached to bioluminescence in order to report levels of NO in soil for instance.

Human Practices - at a glance

The team have explored a variety of avenues in engaging with the public. The team focused on making their rather complex project assessable to the public by allowing the public to consider what would happen if their general health could be something seen easily and publicly in the form of a changing tattoo (in which their body had mammalian cells containing our hybrid promoter injected into their skin). This idea, in the form of an advert for a fictitious healthcare company, raises several ethical questions regarding information security.

The team were also very active in educating the public via social media sites and in a radio interview, giving the public access to what happens inside the lab, shattering the intimidating ivory towers that kept the work of scientists of yesteryear isolated in the past. In addition to this, the team engaged in the public personally in both a large scale public workshop and by visiting various schools and educating the future of the UK population in the future of science and technology.

Not only that but the team also worked to bring together all 9 UK Collegiate iGEM teams (84 registered delegates, including several individuals not involved in iGEM) by hosting a 'hangout' at Google Campus for a day of inspiring presentations, which celebrate the innovative ideas that are emerging from these premier Synthetic Biology research groups. Our hangout were broadcasted publicly and globally through Google+ Events and Google Hangouts, all of which can now be viewed on youtube! The event was such a success Google got back to us and asked us whether the UK iGEM teams could meet again on their campus next year!

Click Here for Programme PDF

Finally, the team worked with BioLine to publish a blog entry and have arranged to take part in the SGM conference, which has worked to bring the world of synthetic biology to the attention of the wider scientific community.

This years team really have made efforts to inform the wider public of our projects aims, and synthetic biology in general, in an impartial and easy to understand way. Happily, several different media groups have contacted the team, and their project has already made the local news! It's onwards and upwards for the NRP-UEA iGEM team!