The team for public engagement spoke to many different groups of people at various events in our area. We focused on teaching younger generations; informing such a group about synthetic biology is vital due to the field’s current blossoming industry and its modern day applications. The team also took several trips to grade schools previously attended by team members and presented to the sixth through eighth graders. This presentation briefly explained our project and went into depth about fundamental concepts of synthetic biology and its purposes. After the presentation, the grade schoolers completed a lab using candy to create DNA models, helping them better understand basic genetics. Furthermore, our team ran a booth at an open house at our high school in order to clarify the purpose of our project to more of the general public. In order to aid this explanation, our team presented on synthetic biology and our research, as well as distributed brochures that further described these topics.
The team for education traveled to local schools in the area and spoke about the basics of synthetic biology and our research to students who may be interested in science and research. We explained the topics to the students in a manner that was comprehensible, but still informative. For different levels of students, different demonstrations were presented in order to cater to that age range. Besides the middle-school presentations, a high school lesson plan was created to be sent out to our high school and surrounding schools for teachers to provide a basis in synthetic biology and research with molecular biology.
Many concerns exist with genetically modified organisms mutating and infecting the human body or initiating an outbreak in the environment. Our part is designed in such a way that the bacteria will bind to and remain inside a cellulose pellicle. This way, in the unlikely situation of the microbe mutating, it will stay contained inside this cellulose pellicle and not be able to infect the human body or spread into the environment.
Scale-up and Deployment Issues
The final product of an engineered microbe bound to cellulose has a clear application to illnesses affecting deployed personnel. The bacteria can sense and respond to ETEC, a form of Traveler’s Stomach that affects over half of deployed soldiers, while encapsulated in a cellulose module that could either pass through the human GI tract unharmed or be placed into drinking water. To scale up this project the product would need to withstand travel and field conditions. Additionally, the product has to be ready for use at all times for either ingestion or to test drinking water lest ETEC-contaminated food or water affect the personnel. These potential issues could cause the product to fail in extreme conditions, but the product is fairly durable and should be able to last through general deployment.
The final constructed part will be encapsulated inside a cellulose pellicle. This cellulose matrix will both protect the genetically modified part from damage and prevent the part from harming the environment through the potential of mutating. Furthermore, the organism will be unable to spread out into the environment and expand into the ecosystem.
While many citizens still possess fears concerning the modern prevalence of genetically modified organisms, numerous precautions are taken to prevent any potential hazards. In addition, the intent of the engineered microbe is to aid civilians employed by the government or deployed personnel by protecting them from infection by certain strains of E. coli that can cause Traveler’s Stomach.
Because of the csgA-dCBD part (BBa_k2522000), the engineered microbe will be safe to ingest as it will be encapsulated in cellulose. This encasement will permit the microbe to move through the GI tract or remain in water without the possibility of infection. If the microbe should mutate, it would remain contained within the cellulose in order to keep the person ingesting the microbe safe from infection.
All of the conducted experiments were performed in secure labs that meet standard regulations. Additionally, all data was recorded by hand until it was cleared and entered into the Wiki, preventing tampering with the data or notes.
There is a possibility of the organism mutating, but the organism will be encapsulated inside a cellulose pellicle to ensure that if it does mutate, the bacteria will be contained and will be unable to infect the person or to spread throughout the GI tract.