Many promising solutions to environmental problems such as nitrogen accumulation and plastic pollution often cannot be implemented because it requires the use of genetically modified bacteria and other microorganisms. We, a group of ambitious students from Leiden University, want to change that! We developed DOPL LOCK, a system that prevents the spread of genetically modified genes. This safety system paves the way for the risk-free use of genetically modified bacteria to save the world.
Tackling global issues
Modern techniques make it possible to modify the DNA of living organisms in the laboratory. These are called genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs have the potential to solve all kinds of major problems. For example, they can contribute to ending the nitrogen crisis (see box).
|A promising example of GMOs that is used for environmental problems is bio-fertilizer with GMOs as a replacement for chemical fertilizer in agriculture. The GMOs in the bio-fertilizer capture the nitrogen from the air and make it possible for plants to convert the nitrogen in the soil into building materials, such as proteins and DNA. This ensures a reduction of greenhouse gases. In addition, pollution of water sources is prevented because the bio-fertilizer does not run off. The GMO bio-fertilizer is currently being used on a small scale in agriculture and is proving successful.|
Restrictions on the use of GMOs
However, bacteria/GMOs are not often used. The GMOs could pass on their modified DNA to other lifeforms in nature. Governments, scientists, and companies have therefore agreed worldwide to restrict the possibilities for the use of GMOs. As a result, GMOs generally have to stay in the labs, and their potential to solve big environmental issues, stays untapped.
DOPL LOCK – A safer system for using GMOs
To ensure that GMOs can be used to solve major global problems, we are making a reliable biosafety system that prevents the transfer of modified DNA to nature. Our system separates the genetic material of a GMO into two pieces of DNA, known as plasmids, that are dependent on each other. Together these plasmids form the basis of the safety system. Both plasmids are each provided with their own toxin: a carefully selected protein that disturbs the essential processes in the cell. Only the presence of a corresponding antitoxin neutralizes the effect of the toxin, causing the cell to start working again. Equipping both plasmids with each other's antitoxin ensures that the cell only continues to live if both plasmids are together. When a plasmid is transferred to another bacterium, both plasmids are no longer together. As a result, the toxin is no longer neutralized, so that both the bacterium that donates the plasmid as the bacterium that takes up the plasmid die. We call this a Double Plasmid Lock (DOPL LOCK), with which we take the first step towards a reliable system. That is why we want to share our project with other iGEM teams and scientists so that everyone can improve and use our system. It is our dream to make GMOs safer all over the world, not just in our lab in Leiden!
Please support our project!
Will you help us develop DOPL LOCK to pave the way for tackling global problems with GMOs? With your donation, we can buy more lab material and perform more tests. Extensive testing and optimization increase the chance of actually realizing a safe system. Together we can advance science and provide the world with a secure future!
Who are we?
We, team iGEM Leiden 2021, are 12 hardworking, ambitious, and enthusiastic students who participate in the global synthetic biology competition iGEM. The students of our interdisciplinary team come from different courses: Biology (specialization Molecular Genetics & Biotechnology), Biomedical Sciences, Molecular Science & Technology and Life Science & Technology. Due to our different backgrounds, we can take our DOPL LOCK project to a high level and hope to help science and the world move forward.
iGEM Leiden team 2021 upper row from left to right: Giovi Duivenvoorden, Bachelorstudent Life Science & Technology, Quint van Loosen, Masterstudent Molecular Genetics & Biotechnology, Ehsan Razaghi Siahroudi, Bachelorstudent Biomedical Sciences, Lisa Kleinjan, Bachelorstudent Life Science & Technology, Iris Noordermeer, Masterstudent Molecular Genetics & Biotechnology, Bas van Woudenberg, Masterstudent Molecular Genetics & Biotechnology, Sebastiaan Ketelaar, Masterstudent Molecular Genetics & Biotechnology, Igor van Meulen, Bachelorstudent Life Science & Technology, Jetse van Os, Bachelorstudent Molecular Science & Technology. Bottom row: Siheng Li, Masterstudent Molecular Genetics & Biotechnology, Hoda Ekhlasi, Masterstudent Molecular Genetics & Biotechnology, Chanel Naar, Masterstudent Biomedical Sciences.
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