Changing the tide on ocean pollution

     In 2016, the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis strain 201-F6 impressed researchers with its ability to degrade PET. Used in the production of plastic bottles and more, PET is the most common form of plastic pollution. Genetic modification of the oligotrophic unicellular green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii strain CC-277, with the plastic degrading operons from I. sakaiensis provides a safe and eco-friendly breakdown of PET.

 

     C. reinhardtii, unlike recently discovered I. sakaiensis has been studied for decades. Known safe to humans, it is regarded for reproducing easily autotrophically or heterotrophically with a carbon source. Fed PET in specialized dark composters, modified C. reinhardtii will help reduce plastic’s environmental impact. A beneficial byproduct of C. reinhardtii’s  utilization of PET is that the chemical energy produced can be harvested from its mitochondria and transformed into electrical energy via inserted nanoelectrodes. This electrical energy can power composter systems maintaining C. reinhardtii, or the building in which the composter is located.

The Oceans

Are Dying

 

In 2019, approximately 12 million metric tons of plastic waste was added to our planet’s already plastic inundated ecosystems. Plastic items such as straws and bags, are causing harm to an extensive array of organisms. These items are critically harming animals from sea turtles and whales to seagulls. Even human health is being negatively impacted through the consumption of microplastics from our marine food sources. The average household in the United States used around 75 kilograms of PET annually. That’s over 6,800 17 oz plastic bottles! 

The photo shows a Green Sea Turtle consuming PET pollution.

 

Genetically engineered C. reinhardtii maintained in specialized opaque composers will effectively eliminate PET waste from homes and businesses before it has a chance to become plastic pollution. Currently, plastic pollution leaves the home after its use and enters oceanic ecosystems  causing harm and destruction to marine life. With this technology, plastic pollution would never leave the building it's being used in. The plastic would never enter marine ecosystems, preventing the harm and destruction of marine life.  

The photo shows environmental activists protesting to protect the planet.

 

A brief History

Of genetic engineering

1850-1950

During this time period, minimal advances were made in the field of genetic engineering, however the few advances that were made were massive. In the late 19th century, the scientist Gregor Mendel experimented with heredity, and how different traits pass from one generation to the next. His experimentation led the way for more research and experimentation to be conducted on genetic engineering, thus giving him the name, The Father of Genetics. In the year 1905, the term genetics was coined by the English biologist William Bateson. Later research throughout the 20th century has created what genetics is today.

William Bateson

Gregor Mendel

1951-1979

The late 20th century was when the majority of influential innovations were made regarding the structure and function of DNA. One of the most significant discoveries occurred in 1953, when James Watson and Frances Crick discovered the double-helix structure of DNA. In 1967 scientist discovered DNA ligases, allowing for experimentation to be conducted into the modification of an organism's genome. Shortly afterwards in 1968, Werner Aber discovered restriction enzymes which can cleave small sections of DNA from an organism. In the 70s, discoveries such as the discovery of type II restriction enzymes and experimentation into gene splicing lead to the creation of recombinant DNA (rDNA).

Diagram showing DNA and its primary components.

1980-2020

During the late 20th century and early 21st century, advancements with genetic engineering technology were the most significant. Some of these advancements include the development of recombinant vaccines in the 90s, the first genetically modified animal, the creation of polymerase chain reaction, and the development of CRISPR/Cas9. CRISPR/Cas9 is an effective, cost friendly method of genetically modifying an organisms' genome. CRISPR/Cas9 uses guide RNA molecules to lead CRISPR enzymes to a targeted sequence of DNA that it cleaves, and is then able to insert into a new organisms genome. This discovery is perhaps the most significant and has contributed the most to what genetics is today. 

Diagram showing how CRISPR/Cas9 cleaves DNA from an organsim's genome.