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A diverse team of nine students is participating in 2012 International Genetically Engineered Machine

A diverse team of nine students is participating in 2012 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, a global level that welcomes innovative biological system made from standard, interchangeable parts and which is simple to design and build.  So don’t think what’s new in this, it happens every year and what the big deal in it. Yes, there is something more this time. But before telling about that, let me furnish you some statistics which can make us realise what a huge advancement is yet to happen through this project!

“Diarrheal” is not a new word to anyone. According to World Health Organization it is the second leading factor for death in children under 5 years, which almost kills 1.5 million children worldwide every year!! Now here is the catch. Students from Arizona state university have thus taken this issue into concern and are working to develop a simple device that detects contaminated drinking water.  

Now coming to the project part, let me tell what the project is all about. This team from ASU is planning to develop a user friendly, DNA-based biosensor that can detect major pathogens. The team leaders words for this project is “we are developing a biosensor that can detect pathogenic bacteria such as, Shigella, Salmonella and E. coil that causes diarrhoea ”.  And also adds saying “Ideally, you would use our biosensor to check different water supplies in the third world countries to determine  whether the water is safe to drink”. This team is working on two designs. 

Among them” the first one targets DNA, since each pathogen has different DNA we design a complementary sequences- sequences that match specific DNA. The DNA will be taken out from the sample and check whether it complements the DNA which is probed. If it complements, it is shown in colour response which tells that the water is contaminated.” Says Nisrag patel a molecular bioscience and biotechnology major in school of Life Science. 

The second one tests the membranes of the bacteria. While using the device to test water, the water turns blue if certain protein is attached to the bacterial membrane indicating that the water is contaminated.  Abinav Markus, a biomedical engineering student of ASU says “the advantage of this design to the previous designs in the field lies in the cheap production of the probes and the enzymatic chain reaction”
When at once this team met Madeline Sands, anthropology major in the university’s school of Human Evolution and Social change, she suggested this idea of low cost biosensor. She who had once travelled to Guatemala as a part of her ASU field experience, conducted community health research where she came to know that contaminated water contributes a serious health problem to a developing country.  She says “my time in Guatemala made it clear that having a way to detect contaminated water would lead to further reduction in incidents and morbidity of diarrhoea”

This team will be presenting its device in this October during the iGEM regional competition at Stanford University. The other team members are: Rohit rajan, Ethan Ward, Hyder Hussain, Amanda Ispas and Ellen Qin. Kyile Standage-Beier, a biological science major and pervious iGEM team member, serves as an advisor. If successful they will be at the global competition in November at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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