Team:IIT Chicago

iGEM IIT Chicago

What is it?

A genetically engineered cyanobacteria which degrades polyethylene terephthalate. Green Ocean has design cyanobacteria Synechococcus Elongatus to port and express the PETease gene found in Ideonella Sakaiensis. This allows the enzyme to be carried by cyanobacteria and work in the marine environment.

The Problem

In March 2019, a whale washed ashore the Philippines with 88 lbs. of plastic in its stomach (National Geographic). This was caused by the presence of microplastics in the ocean which is now negatively affecting over 600 species of marine life. Microplastics’ resistance to degradation is causing organisms on all levels of the food chain to frequently consume the material. Global ecosystems have already been disrupted since contamination and we risk further harm if we don’t address this problem immediately.

The Solution

We have optimized the I.s. PETase gene to produce an efficient enzyme, and made it compatible for expression and secretion in cyanobacteria. We accomplished this in a dual-host plasmid shuttle vector in E.coli and then transferred to cyanobacteria by conjugation. In order to test our product, we developed a PET degradation assay system consisting of fluorescent PET nanoparticles.

Our Vision

Green Ocean hopes to one day implement our solution on a global scale. But for now, our goal is to further advance our research to guarantee our product's effectiveness and safety. We hope that our work continues to be innovated upon, and not just by us, but by the scientific community as well. We hope to be impactful to the growing research in finding the best solution to help marine life and in removing PET plastic in the ocean, and that one day we will succeed in creating a Green Ocean.

Illinois Institute of Technology

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