Information Processing in iGEM covers a diverse range of projects. Like the Foundational Advance track, IP teams are not trying to solve a real world problem with practical applications, but to tackle an interesting problem that might otherwise not attract attention. Teams enter this track if they are attempting projects such as building elements of a biological computer, creating a game using biology or working on a signal processing challenges.
Engineering ways to make biological systems perform computation is one of the core goals of synthetic biology. We generally work at the DNA level, engineering systems to function using BioBricks. In most biological systems, protein-protein interactions are where the majority of processing takes place. Being able to design proteins to accomplish computation would allow for systems to function on a much faster timescale than the current transcription-translation paradigm. These are some of the challenges that face teams entering projects into the Information Processing track in iGEM.
You will find images and abstracts of the winning Information Processing teams from 2011 to 2013 in the page below. Also, follow the links below to see projects from all the Information Processing track teams.
- iGEM 2013 Information Processing team list
- iGEM 2012 Information Processing team list
- iGEM 2011 Information Processing team list
Recent Information Processing projects to win best in track
Winning Information Processing project in 2013 Undergrad: Mutant Ninja. coliTokyo Tech
Project abstract: In our project, we propose to create E. coli that mimic some of the qualities of Japan’s ancient ‘ninja’ warrior-spies. A ninja must receive and pass on correct information at all times. A mistake will be fatal. We have created a circuit that avoids crosstalk between two signals in cell-to-cell communication, and we are also looking into applications for it. Ninjas are also known for their star-shaped ‘shuriken’ throwing knives. Our E. coli ninja has a similar weapon, an M13 phage which it releases to infect other E. coli, injecting plasmid DNA into them. Finally, ninja must harmonize with the natural environment, so their relationship to it is very important. Plant hormones help plants to grow efficiently, and we are attempting to construct a circuit that synthesizes two plant hormones depending on the soil environment.
Winning Information Processing project in 2013 Overgrad: ColisweeperETH Zurich
Project abstract: Colisweeper is an interactive, biological version of the Minesweeper computer game, based on luxI/luxR quorum sensing and chromogenic enzymatic reactions. The goal is to clear an agar “minefield” without detonating mines. Genetically engineered Escherichia coli colonies are used as sender-cells (mines) and receiver-cells (non-mines). Mines secrete the signaling molecule N-(3-oxohexanoyl)-l-homoserine lactone (OHHL) whereas non-mines process the signal. To distinguish between OHHL-levels, a library of PLuxR promoters with various sensitivities was created through site-saturation mutagenesis. High-pass filters were constructed to control the expression of different orthogonal hydrolases in non-mines, depending on the number of surrounding mines. Additionally, the mines express their own hydrolase. A spatiotemporal reaction-diffusion model was established to evaluate and improve the system. To play Colisweeper, a colorless substrate solution is pipetted onto a colony of choice. The result is a defined color change within minutes, allowing identification of the played colony and the number of mines surrounding it.
Winning Information Processing project in 2012: "Romeo and Juliet" by E. coli cell-cell communicationTokyo Tech
Project abstract : A love story contains several processes. Two people fall in love and their love burning wildly. However, no forever exists in the world, in most occasions, love will eventually burn to only a pile of ashes of the last remaining wind drift away. In our project, we have recreated the story of "Romeo & Juliet" by Shakespeare vividly by two kinds of Escherichia coli. We aim to generate a circuit involving regulatory mechanism of positive feedback rather than commonly-used negative feedback to control the fate of E.coli by signaling between two types of E.coli. Besides, Rose represents love. We will challenge to be the first iGEM group ever to synthesize PHA (a kind of bio-plastics) from glucose using the whole PHA gene sequence to represent rose.
Winning Information Processing project 2011: ETH ZurichSmoColi
Project abstract: SmoColi is a bacterio-quantifier of acetaldehyde concentration that can be used as a passive smoke detector. Acetaldehyde is a toxic and carcinogenic component of cigarette smoke. It has a boiling point of 20.2C and is very volatile, thus can be used as an information carrier through air. The SmoColi cells are immobilized in an agarose-filled microfluidic device. The test solution is fed on one end of a microfluidic channel, in which an acetaldehyde gradient is established by synthetic cellular degradation. The cells are engineered to sense acetaldehyde by a synthetically re-designed fungal acetaldehyde-responsive transactivator. The sensor is linked to a band-pass filter that drives GFP expression. This allows establishment of an input-concentration-dependent, spatially located fluorescent band displaying quantitative information about acetaldehyde. Finally, if the acetaldehyde concentration exceeds the threshold of malignance, a quorum-sensing-based mCherry alarm system springs into action, turning the whole device red.