Description: Northeastern’s brainstorming this year evolved around two proposals: E. coli that maintain anoxic conditions and E. coli that deliver pathogen-disabling CRISPR-cas9 constructs to pathogen bacteria. While the two ideas were dissimilar, we discovered an area that we believe could make use of both projects: microbial electrochemical technologies. Microbial electrochemical technologies take advantage of bacterial oxidation of food sources by the production of electrical current. Microbial electrolysis cells, which are a subset of microbial electrochemical technologies, use the electrical current generated by bacteria breaking down substrate as a subsidy for the evolution of valuable chemicals on the cathode side of the cell. Hydrogen, which would normally require around 0.41V from acetate, for example, can be produced in an MEC at around 0.2V since the bacteria themselves provide some of the current. Oxygen in an MEC will hinder hydrogen generation since oxygen will readily reduce at the cathode, therefore, maintaining an oxygen-free environment, by the engineering of partner E coli, may prove advantageous for MEC’s. We believe that conjugation of CRISPR-cas9 plasmids to pathogenic bacteria also makes sense in the context of MECs. The reason for this is that MECs show the greatest potential for use in wastewater treatment facilities, where there are large unused quantities of reduced organic material. An additional but unaddressed need within wastewater treatment is the ability to detect the presence of pathogens; discovering pathogens in wastewater may predict the emergence of disease. In this pursuit, existing technologies fall short. PCR is difficult to apply in this situation, given the sheer number of circulating pathogens, and microarrays are not robust enough for the application. If it were possible to use the partner bacteria in MECs to also conjugate CRISPR plasmids into pathogenic bacteria, detecting pathogens if they are present in the wastewater, we believe that it would represent a reliable solution to the existing problem. Therefore, our project is centered around investigating these two problems, both of which could be addressed the treatment of wastewater.
Collaboration details:
Year: 2016Visit Wiki
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Updated at: 8/9/16