This project aims to develop a cell-free sensor for detecting and quantifying arsenic in drinking water.
Arsenic contamination of drinking water is a global issue affecting in the region of 150 million people. Arsenic poisoning is highly prevalent in countries surrounding the Himalayas such as India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan and arises from natural contamination of shallow tube wells. Currently, drinking water is predominantly tested via chemical sensors, which require toxic reagents, technical expertise and only produces qualitative results. Developments in synthetic biology have shown that biological components can be engineered for heavy metal detection, but methods are limited by GM contamination risks and only provide qualitative readouts. As such, an opportunity has been identified to develop a first-of -kind cell-free quantitative arsenic sensor which uses the synthesis of an electroactive metabolic enzyme for amperometric quantification of arsenic concentrations. This project was for a first proof of concept of such a sensor.
The system is based on a genetic circuit consisting of a promoter responsive to arsenic and a downstream reporter which produces an electroactive enzyme. The enzyme concentration will then be measured using amperometric detection methods allowing a quantitative measurement of arsenic concentration to be determined.
This ambitious project requires a technically diverse cohort. The team consists of the 12 members of the MRes year students of the Sensor CDT programme at the University of Cambridge.
Genevieve Hughes - Background in Earth Science
Ralf Mouthann - Background in Physics
Elise Siouve - Background in Biotechnology
Carolina Orozco - Background in Biotechnology
Sina Schack - Background in Biochemistry
Electrochemistry and Platform
Lisa Hecker - Background in Biophysics
Alexandru Grigoroiu - Background in Biomedical Engineering
Sammy Mahdi - Background in Electrical Engineering
James Vereycken - Background in Organic Chemistry
Francesco Tonolini - Background in Physics
David-Benjamin Grys - Background in Electrical Engineering
Tess Skyrme - Background in Aerospace Engineering