THE PROJECTChitosan - have you heard of it? We guarantee you have benefited from it. Chitosan has far ranging uses spanning from agriculture, medicine, and biofilm production to industrial water treatment. Chitosan first came to our attention as an anti-fungal agent through our last year's project to prevent crop spoilage. However, present methods of chitosan production cause much damage to the environment, and are very expensive.
Lambert iGEM tackled this issue last year by dreaming up "Chitinite", an inexpensive and bio-friendly alternative to the current caustic and chemically intensive methods of chitosan production. This year we are continuing our project. We have already isolated the chitin deacetylase (CDA) gene from yeast and are working on expressing it in E.coli. Chitosan is toxic to E.coli, but by using a PelB tag to express CDA in the periplasm, we hope to greatly reduce the toxicity. If successful, this method will facilitate cheap mass production of CDA. By engineering cells to be used in a bioreactor with discarded shrimp shells, our "Chitinite" can help protect fragile ecosystems. Lambert iGEM hopes to protect the environment and help save the world.
Another highlight of our efforts was a Discovery Dialogue held in a partnership with the Atlanta Science Festival. We brought together on one stage in an open forum a legislator, an ethicist, an immunologist, an FBI agent, and a scientist to discuss topics ranging from the benefits and harms of GMOs and the ethics of genetic engineering to bioterrorism and governmental regulations. Nearly a hundred people attended the discussion, and we received fantastic reviews. The audience was also invited to ask questions to the panelists. The concluding polls showed an increase in both the positive perception of synthetic biology and the knowledge of how genetic engineering is used in agriculture. Due to the forum's success, the Lamberts iGEM team has been invited to partner with the Atlanta Science Festival again in the coming year. We hope to extend the event to incorporate a greater range of topics and attendees.