Once again, students of the ISV and different faculties of our university (biologists, bioengineer, engineers and economists) are taking part to the prestigious iGEM competition. This worldwide competition gathers each year students on common societal issues. Using synthetic biology and their creativity, they must find solutions!
This year, their aim is to design a biobadge detecting excessive UV exposure and therefore warn us to seek sun protection should it become necessary. Nowadays, exposition to harmful UV rays has led to an ever-growing number of skin cancer cases, amongst other sun-related diseases. This badge would work as a capsule holding E. coli cells, changing colours as the UV intensity increases. Therefore, they investigated two approaches using photocaged tyrosine (o-nitrobenzyl tyrosine). In both cases, UV-rays will release the tyrosine and enhance a reporter signal.
- Starting with a tyrosine auxotroph E. coli strain, a reporter RFP will be synthetized once tyrosine is liberated from its cage.
- Using a photocaged peptide and a specific transcription factor called ComR, they also aim at UV-controlling the expression of the reporter gene. The capsule would also work as a safe and reliable containment, destroying the engineered microorganisms once the biobadge is discarded.
Thanks to their PI’s, Patrice Soumillon, Charles Hachez and Bernard Hallet, the 2017 UCLouvain iGEM Team will defend their project during the iGEM Jamboree in Boston, in the beginning of November along with 300 teams from all around the world.