Posted by Cory Mogk, 6 November 2011 5:43 pm
We’re at the iGEM World Championship, seeing some great projects from teams around the globe. Our next story features the NYC Wetware team, a squad of students from New York schools including, Yeshiva University and Cornell. The team was the winner of the “Best Human Practices Advance” award, highlighting their efforts to help others understand, consider, and address the impacts of ongoing advances in biotechnology.
The NYC team was inspired to find a solution for eliminating the radioactive waste which is contained in storage sites and in facilities. The cost of current techniques used to eliminate toxic waste can become astronomic, which can impede the process to rapidly remove contaminants from the environment. Through the use of bioremediation techniques, a concept in which biological organisms are used to repair the environment, radioactive waste could be broken down in an efficient and cost effective way to encourage its rapid implementation.
The team set out to create radioresistant E. coli by coopting radiation resistance mechanisms from Deinococcus radiodurans (D. rad), the most radiation resistant bacteria currently known. Through doing so, they can then leverage this framework to develop future applications to control cellular resistance to radiation, which can be used for bioremediation of radioactive waste, as well as highly effective stem cell transplants.
By creating an animation in Maya, Ariel Caplan wanted to illustrate the mechanisms of radioresistance, in an effective demonstration of how their project would work to reduce or prevent radiation damage. He provided his thoughts of how 3D animation tools are helping to impact scientific research:
“Life sciences are inherently very, very expensive and time-consuming. Additionally, when working on the cellular level, the only data that can be collected is often summaries of thousands or millions of events. Computer-based modeling can circumvent both of these problems by allowing experiments to be performed without expensive reagents, and in hours or minutes rather than days, months, or years. 3D animation opens up a new set of tools for computerized simulations, most notably the ability to manipulate objects in 3-dimensional space. Ultimately, we will be able to perform pseudo-in vivo experiments that could never actually be performed on living organisms for practical or ethical reasons.”
The first animation demonstrates how a cell is able to limit the destruction of DNA and the incapacitation of proteins by replacing iron with manganese elements to protect the cell from oxidative damage.
The second video illustrates how antioxidants can have a preventative effect on radiation damage via reactive molecules. The reactive molecules reduce the antioxidant before having a chance to reduce DNA or sensitive proteins.
More information is available about the project on the NYC Wetware team wiki page: http://2011.igem.org/Team:NYC_Wetware
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