Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
AgriGenomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Using Electroactive Bacteria, Students Design Toxin Sensor

Published: Friday, October 12, 2012
Last Updated: Friday, October 12, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Using bacteria that can produce an electric current, student engineers are putting the finishing touches on a low-cost, field-deployable toxin sensor that could help protect water sources.

Cornell University Genetically Engineered Machines (CU GEM) is trying to help the oil industry develop sound environmental safety practices. Bolstered by a $20,000 grant from the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative, the team has designed and built a biosensor that uses the electroactive bacterial species Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 to detect the toxic substances arsenic and naphthalene in water.

They will enter their design in the 2012 iGEM North American East Jamboree competition, Oct. 12-14, at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

Abundant in Canada and Russia, oil sand, or tar sand, is a petroleum deposit that requires specialized, energy-intensive refining techniques to extract hydrocarbons from a muddy substance that resembles tar. Left over in this process is a pool of chemicals, called tailings, that are deposited into holding ponds, causing environmental safety concerns due to their potential for leaking into water sources.

The students' device would help refineries monitor levels of potentially hazardous substances in water sources. The technology they are using involves genetic manipulation of S. oneidensis MR-1 to generate direct current output in a whole-cell, autonomous biosensor. Core to the idea is a "biobrick" -- a DNA sequence with a specific biological function -- in which they will link the bacteria's metal-reduction pathway with a promoter protein that is turned on in the presence of either arsenic or naphthalene.

Biosensors today often use fluorescence as their output, which introduces the need for a cumbersome photodiode and the potential for light contamination -- problems that would be eliminated by the students' design.

"Tools currently available for things like detecting naphthalene and arsenic are time consuming and expensive," said Jim Mathew '14, co-team leader of CU GEM. "There is a definite need for a device like this."

Their prototype works by placing Shewanella bacteria into a small bioreactor. Water samples continuously pump into the chamber, and the bacteria's genetic circuitry is turned on only in the presence of the metallic compounds. This causes production of a protein complex that allows the bacteria to create an electric current. A readout of the levels of current are sent to a field station, providing a reliable and continuous monitoring system.

Making the biosensor comes with all kinds of engineering problems, the students said: getting the pumping system to pump at very low, controlled flow rates, finding a robust battery pack light enough to float in water, and making sure the bacteria don't die inside the chambers by providing them with food. What's more, the students concerned themselves with ethical questions -- making sure, for example, that their system would keep genetically modified bacteria from backwashing out of the reactor.

Their goal is not just to prove a concept, but to build a device that actually works and is eventually self-sustaining, added co-team leader Claire Paduano '13.

The interdisciplinary nature of the team, which has 22 members representing almost every engineering major, enables people of different expertise to work together. There's the "wet lab" side -- working with the biological samples, that has to integrate seamlessly with the "dry lab" -- led by co-team leader Dan Levine '14, whose multidisciplinary team is responsible for the design and integration of all electrical and mechanical systems.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,200+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,600+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Pathogen Takes Control of Gypsy Moth Populations
A new fungal pathogen is killing gypsy moth caterpillars and crowding out communities of pathogens and parasites that previously destroyed these moth pests.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
$4.8M USAID Grant to Improve Food Security
To strengthen capacity to develop and disseminate genetically engineered eggplant in Bangladesh and the Philippines, the USAID has awarded Cornell a $4.8 million, three-year cooperative grant.
Friday, April 01, 2016
$5.5M NSF Grant Aims to Improve Rice Crops with Genome Editing
Researchers to precisely target, cut, remove and replace DNA in a living cell to improve rice.
Friday, May 08, 2015
Genetics Used to Improve Plants for Bioenergy
An upcoming genetics investigation into the symbiotic association between soil fungi and feedstock plants for bioenergy production could lead to more efficient uptake of nutrients, which would help limit the need for expensive and polluting fertilizers.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Pest Attacks Can Lead to Bigger Crop Yields
New project receive three-year funding of $498,000 from USDA.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Algal Genes May Boost Efficiency, Yield in Staple Crops
New research has taken a step toward employing genes from blue-green algae to improve staple crop photosynthesis.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Study to Focus on Rice Genes, Yield and Climate
Cornell researchers received a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to study relationships among rice genetics, crop yields and climate.
Thursday, May 01, 2014
New Alfalfa Variety Resists Ravenous Local Pest
The new variety has some resistance against the alfalfa snout beetle which has ravaged alfalfa fields.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Predators Delay Pest Resistance to Bt Crops
Crops genetically modified with the bacterium Bt(Bacillus thuringiensis) produce proteins that kill pest insects.
Monday, March 10, 2014
Shark, Human Proteins are Surprisingly Similar
Despite widespread fascination with sharks, the world’s oldest ocean predators have long been a genetic mystery.
Friday, December 06, 2013
Surprises Discovered in Decoded Kiwifruit Genome
DNA sequence of the kiwifruit has many genetic similarities between its 39,040 genes and other plant species, including potatoes and tomatoes.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Produce Perfect: Biotech Sweet Corn goes Unblemished
With the kernel-loving earworm, producing unblemished ears of sweet corn is difficult.
Monday, October 14, 2013
New Micro Water Sensor Can Aid Growers
Crop growers, wine grape and other fruit growers, food processors and even concrete makers all benefit from water sensors for accurate, steady and numerous moisture readings.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Partnership Homes in on Regenerative Medicine
Scientists are to advance healing techniques and technologies for animals and humans.
Friday, October 04, 2013
Using Genes to Rescue Animal and Plants from Extinction
With estimates of losing 15 to 40 percent of the world’s species over the next four decades researchers whether science should employ genetic engineering to the rescue.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Scientific News
Invasive Species Could Cause Billions in Agriculture Damages
Invasive insects and pathogens could be a multi-billion-dollar threat to global agriculture and developing countries may be the biggest target, according to a team of international researchers.
Genetic Research Can Significantly Improve Drug Development
With drug development costs topping $1.2bn (£850 million) to get a single treatment to the point it can be sold and used in the clinic, could genetic analysis save hundreds of millions of dollars?
What Makes a Good Scientist?
It’s the journey, not just the destination that counts as a scientist when conducting research.
Scoliosis Linked to Disruptions in Spinal Fluid Flow
A new study in zebrafish suggests that irregular fluid flow through the spinal column brought on by gene mutations is linked to a type of scoliosis that can affect humans during adolescence.
More Research Needed to Ensure Gene Drive Safety
Gene-Drive modified organisms are not ready to be released into environment a new report calls for more research and robust assessment.
Genetic Basis of Petunia Variation Uncovered
A large international team of researchers, including scientists from Wageningen University, have now sequenced the entire genome of two different wild petunia species, and published this in the important scientific journal Nature Plants.
Genetically Engineered Crops Are Safe
Distinction between genetic engineering and conventional plant breeding becoming less clear, says new report on GE crops.
Breeding More Climate Resilient Brassicas
Scientists at the John Innes Centre have discovered how a gene that helps determine plant flowering time could help us breed better brassicas in the face of climate change.
One Step Closer To Developing Non-Allergenic 'Super' Peanuts
Scientists from The University of Western Australia have joined a global research team that have identified genes in peanuts that when altered will be able to prevent an allergic response in humans.
Developing Non-Allergenic 'Super' Peanuts
Scientists from The University of Western Australia have joined a global research team that have identified genes in peanuts that when altered will be able to prevent an allergic response in humans.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,200+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,600+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!