Our Lady of The Snows Catholic Academy (Canmore)
BreaKERs – our team is tackling the global issue of keratin waste build-up
|Team Grade Level:||High School|
|STEM Focus:||Synthetic Biology|
An estimated 8.5 billion tons of poultry feathers are produced from farms globally every year, in addition to the tons of human hair that are removed from wastewater treatment facilities worldwidem, both of which contain keratin, a protein stucture which gives hair and feather their rigidity. Keratin waste is typically disposed of through incineration, burying the waste, or mechanical processing that yields low-quality protein products. All these processes take their toll on the environment. However, Keratinase is a serine protease that primarily attacks the disulfide bonds in keratin waste—such as feathers and hair. Thus, the expression of bacterial keratinases provides an opportunity to manage this degradation-resistant keratin waste and turn it into a high quality protein product such as fertilizer or animal feed. To do this, two Keratinase Genes isolated from the Bacillus genera are used. Keratinase A (kerA) is more active in degrading keratin in feathers, while Keratinase US (kerUS) is most effective in degrading the keratin in hair.
iGEM Medal Achieved: Silver