The MTU iGEM team recently won a silver medal for their project on bioremediation of MARS using engineered bacteria in a novel housing system, the Biofrag 2.0. The winning projects were announced on November 14, 2021 at the virtual iGEM competition. The competition was made up of three categories gold, silver and bronze. There was 50 winners in the bronze category, 100 winners in the silver category and 169 winners in the gold category. All categories were made up of teams from a variety of worldwide universities and schools. The MTU iGEM team were the only Irish team to win a medal at the competition with the team securing a silver medal on the day. The MTU iGEM team is made up of departments from both Cork and Kerry campuses with five staff members from CAPPA involved. MTU iGEM has 11 students involved from various departments across both Tralee and Cork Campuses including biological sciences, computer science, sports, veterinary science, biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering.

Mars holds great interest to humanity and commercial applications alike due to its suitability for potential habitation. One issue withstanding are the components of the planets soil that contains toxic levels of sodium perchlorate making growth of food impossible. Our team has devised a solution by engineering E.coli with genomic islands from A. suilum which breakdown the sodium perchlorate in the soil through the enzymes Perchlorate reductase and Chlorite dismutase. The bacteria is housed within a 3D printed. Novel. Spherical design allowing biofilm formation, bacterial proliferation, enzyme distribution and addition of a seed for bioremediating and cultivating the Martian soil. This design has been titled the Biofrag 2.0. The Biofrag can be used within specially contained Biofrag Isolation Units, which allow for the contained remediation of soil whilst preventing widespread contamination. Each box also allows for optimal conditions for growth of both flora and microbiome with Biofrag.

You can learn more about the MTU iGEM team here and more about their previous work here.