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DBT supported research team at IIT Delhi & IISER Pune wins IGeM prize

At a glance

  • New species of bacteria developed through genetic engineering by IIT Delhi
  • Bacteria can remove SOX & NOX
  • IISER team develops concept of genetic device for rapid TB diagnosis
  • The technique can detect TB much earlier than existing methods

A new species of bacteria developed through genetically engineered may be the future solution for air pollution.

The bacteria, called “Eco.coli”, developed by a team of scientists at IIT Delhi can reduce all the polluting gases (oxides of nitrogen and Sulphur) and particulate matter from the air. Placed in a prototype, which can act as an attachment for diesel generators or other polluting exhaust, taking in polluted exhaust and processing it to give out clean air as the output.boston-presentation2015

The IISER Pune team, in the quest to improve TB diagnostics, developed a concept of a genetic device for early detection of TB that could in future do away with the need of high-end instruments and complicated procedures. This technique aims to give an easy-to-identify output upon the addition of our genetic device to the sample.

Their eventual genetic device is based on a strategy involving three modules – Hijack, Detection and Termination. The Hijak: This module aims at hijacking the cell cycle to increase the growth rate of cells. The hijacking is achieved by means of a genetic oscillator that targets 2 proteins – dnaA and ftsZ. The Detection module this module aims at detecting these cells as their number increases by producing a colour output. For this purpose, three possibilities were explored – chromoproteins, enzyme-substrate reactions and carotenoid production in cells. Once the Hijack machinery takes over, the cells divide rapidly as their growth rate increases. The Terminator turns on the suicide switch at a particular cell density and prevents uncontrolled proliferation of these cells.

They have so far developed and submitted three new gene-circuit sequences to the iGEM repository. They have created a strain independent hybrid-promoter plasmid which is the next step can be tested in Mycobacterium smegmatis. Additionally they have developed a modification to the Foldscope to improve imaging of bacteria and small pathogens, and assembled the basic components for a quorum sensing “killer” circuit.

The teams which pursued their research with support from DBT received the bronze medal at the international Genetically Engineered Machines, or iGEM, a competition held annually at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, USA for the innovative product.

The competition centered on synthetic biology, comprises of teams working in their college throughout the summer on an idea to use synthetic biology to solve a real world problem, and present it at the iGEM Giant Jamboree held at the Hynes Convention Center, Boston.

This is the largest gathering of synthetic biologists and molecular biologists from all over the world, with over 260 participating colleges from over 40 countries spanning 5 continents, including premier institutions from all over the world such as Harvard, MIT, Cornell, University of Heidelberg and several other Ivy League colleges, among others.

Team IIT Delhi has been participating in the competition for the past 3 years and was the only IIT to get a medal at the competition, out of three IIT’s (IIT Kharagpur and Madras being the other two). The idea was also appreciated by the Chief Minister of Delhi, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, who saw the initiative as the first step towards the cleaning of Delhi and making the air safe and unpolluted, which is a major concern in the capital these days.

The research and travel was funded largely by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.