pFASt Detection System: Using Synthetic Biology to Detect PFAS Contamination in Water

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of synthetic compounds used industrially for a wide variety of applications. Two PFAS chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorosulfanoic acid (PFOS), persist in the environment and are linked to cancer and birth defects. The accumulation of these compounds has been shown to cause cell-membrane disruption, oxidative stress, and DNA damage, but long term effects on humans are not completely understood. Technologies for testing PFAS levels in water are currently limited, costly, and time consuming. The USAFA iGEM team is genetically engineering bacteria to detect PFOA and PFOS, with the end goal of designing a bacterial biosensor that can be incorporated into a field test highly accessible to the Air Force while simultaneously looking to design a system to degrade these PFAS compounds in the future.