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Integrated Biosensors for the Detection of Chromium and Lead


Water pollution has become a rising problem in Lake Michigan as more and more contaminants are accidentally or illegally dumped. In 2017, U.S. Steel dumped 300 pounds of hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen, into the lake. Yet, very little is being done to raise citizen awareness or to combat the negative effects these spills have on the ecosystem. Thus, the goal of this project is to create a paper-based assay that detects whether chromium or lead is present in a given water supply. For each metal, there are two plasmids; one that produces a repressor protein while the other constitutively produces GFP. With this combination, the repressor interferes with the production of GFP until the specified heavy metal is present, resulting in a fluorescent output. The benefit of creating an easy-to-use sensor is that it empowers everyday citizens to test their water and become aware of its quality.

  • About us

    Northwestern University iGEM
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  • Project description

    Cell-Free Heavy Metal Biosensor
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  • Parts

    Metal Responsive Proteins
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Project significance


MetaSense is a cell-free biosensor designed to detect and respond to the presence of toxic lead and hexavalent chromium in water. By producing this sensor on a platform available to citizens, we hope to include the public in scientific processes, ultimately giving them a greater sense of control over their well-being. Additionally, individuals will be able to proactively screen their water supply, resulting in less instances of unsafe contaminant concentrations. .




Check out the video below to learn more about our project!