Supporting the iGEM participants

October 09, 2018

As in previous years, also for this year´s competition the microplate reader specialist BMG LABTECH is supporting different iGEM teams. iGEM is an international scientific competition open worldwide to students interested in synthetic biology.  

Image of Dr. Tobias Pusterla
Dr Tobias Pusterla
PhD, International Marketing Manager

Participants will have the chance to win medals and track awards at the Giant Jamboree, October 24-28 in Boston, USA as a total of 340 teams from all over the world will compete against each other. This year, BMG LABTECH is happy to support the teams of the Philipps University of Marburg in Germany, and of Imperial College London, University College London and Oxford University in the UK.

Imperial College takes advantage of the FLUOstar® Omega features 

Oliver Carney, Applications Specialist at BMG LABTECH UK introduced the FLUOstar Omega to the students of Imperial College and delivered training in the middle of July. The team is trying to control differential gene expression on a lawn of engineered Escherichia coli using electrical stimuli of varying strengths. The Imperial College team will focus on Computer science and electrical engineering. These are two of the most innovative fields of modern technology and are the early inspirations for the field of synthetic biology. They have provided the concepts of modularity and circuits, which we as synthetic biologists have adapted to the context of biology. The students were brainstorming for ideas for the project, when it came to their attention that so far nearly all avenues of gene expression control have been explored, including chemicals, temperature and optogenetics. Imperial wants to push the limits of synthetic biology by exploring other methods of genetic control, which is why they have taken the challenge to bridge the communications gap between electronics and biology by creating a system where they can control gene expression using differential electrical stimuli. Not only that, but they wish to achieve this on a 2D lawn of bacteria and have localised control of gene expression, essentially designing patterns of our choice. Why patterns you may ask? Well, because patterns are essential for complexity, one only has to look at any living organism to understand how crucial patterning and communication is for the evolution of composite tissues, beautiful shapes and intelligent behaviours.

“In order for us to achieve our goals, we need to approach this massive endeavour one step at a time, and this is where the BMG LABTECH plate reader comes to our assistance. We use the BMG LABTECH plate reader to characterise growth curves to characterise our cell’s health in the presence of various redox molecules, which are potential toxins to the cells, but are necessary to our desired function. As well as that, we use the BMG LABTECH plate reader to monitor GFP synthesis as an output of our genetic circuits. The plate reader has helped us answer some fundamental questions about our cells and genetic circuit, allowing us to move forward onto the next steps of our projects. We would like to thank BMG LABTECH for providing us with the instruments and technical support towards making our project a reality”, said Shivang Joshi, student at Imperial College.


FLUOstar Omega makes significant contribution to measurement of spider silk concentration and polymerisation

The University College London team is aiming to functionalise spider silk - which means spinning silk with specific properties. These properties can range from metal binding for filtering out contaminated waters, to fluorescent silk for glow in the dark clothing! “The way we hope to achieve this is by using a split protein to act as a linker - Spy-Catcher and Spy-Tag. When in close proximity, these two proteins will bind each other and form a strong covalent bond. Spy-Catcher on the spider silk protein binds Spy-Tag found on the functionalisation protein to essentially extend it. We hope to create enough silk to test it as a filter in the tap and see if it can reduce the metal content inside it, said Giovanni Maddalena, student at University College London and member of the iGEM team. “BMG LABTECH's plate readers will help us in our project. We will use them to study the concentration and polymerisation of the spider silk. When expressing GFP, we will be able to estimate how much protein is being produced. From this we can feed the results into our model to optimise the scale-up process bringing us one step closer to manufacturing our product”, said Giovanni Maddalena.


Research on gut bacteria for people who suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Disease 

The Oxford team is engineering gut bacteria to treat IBD. They have created a system to accurately determine and control the balance of immune cells in the gut. The device detects the proportion of populations of Th17 cells and Treg cells and produces specific amounts of an immune suppressor to prevent an autoimmune and an immunodeficient state. The device will detect NO (representative of Th17 population) and respond by producing a relevant amount of IL-10. IL-10 promotes Treg population growth and inhibits Th17 population growth. NO will be detected by a SoxR/pSoxS system. To prevent the population of Treg cells becoming too large, and creating an immunodeficient state, they have created a mechanism to detect and respond to Treg population growth. Adenosine is representative of Treg cell populations. They are adding a cytoplasmic-excluded hydrolase to the outside of the cell to break down adenosine to adenine. Adenine will activate a riboswitch which will allow an sRNA to be transcribed, binding to IL-10 mRNA preventing IL-10 from being translated and so acting as an off switch.


Loan of a CLARIOstar® for team Marburg

Dr. Silke Angersbach (Sales Germany) and Dr. Andrea Krumm (Applications Specialist) overhanded a CLARIOstar to the iGEM team of the University of Marburg, Germany. The team works with the fastest growing organism known to date, Vibrio natrigiens. This organism was first described in 1962. In the last few years, some scientists proposed Vibrio natrigiens as an alternative to Escherichia coli, the commonly used organism, in all aspects of molecular biology, including biotechnological applications. Until now most common methods are not available in Vibrio natrigiens thus preventing its widespread use. In their work, they want to establish and precisely characterize these essential methods and show its power by producing high-value chemicals and pharmaceuticals.