Team:Tacoma RAINmakers



In Tacoma, Washington, arsenic contamination from the ASARCO copper smelter continues to devastate community soil and water. Even small amounts of arsenic pose a threat to long-term community health, causing cancer and child developmental disability. Tacoma and the state of Washington have spent more than 62 million dollars over 18 years testing in the region, with efforts still underway. Tacoma RAINmakers seek to revolutionize toxin detection by engineering an affordable and simple biosensor that alerts the user of arsenic contamination. Our biosensor is user-friendly by design and will not require hazardous chemical reagents. Synthetic biology is the fundamental tenet of the RAINmaker sensor. By employing an arsenic regulatory gene (ArsR) native to E. coli, the RAINmakers are able to identify the presence of arsenic in the environment. ArsR functions as a repressor for a chromoprotein reporter complex. In the presence of arsenic ions (i.e. arsenate, arsenite), our arsenic regulator protein will bind to the toxin, change conformation, and allow expression of our indicator. As mentioned previously, the RAINmakers will be employing chromoproteins, namely amilCP and spisPink. Both of these reporters are non-fluorescent color-producing proteins native to coral. The biosensor will function in vitro; our circuit DNA material will be pipetted and lyophilized into a paper ticket. Ultimately, this sensor will function as a qualitative test for arsenic that will be simple and inexpensive enough for layman use. The long-term goal is to improve community understanding of this ecological issue and bring an inexpensive tool to the hands of Tacoma and the world in a united effort to solve heavy metal contamination.