University of Lethbridge iGEM – Lethbridge, AB
Using genetically engineered phage-like particles to combat blue-green algae bloom
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Cyanobacteria are a natural part of lakes and oceans at nearly undetectable levels. However, their presence has increased to problematic levels in recent years, due to increased levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in bodies of water. Our prairies have an especially large blue-green algae problem, as many prairie lakes have farms nearby, which add phosphorus and nitrogen to the soil in the form of fertilizer. As farming is an incredibly important industry in Alberta, we wanted to design an alternate solution to limiting the use of fertilizer. Therefore, we plan to use phage-like particles to deliver a CRISPR-Cas13 system into cyanobacteria cells in order to induce cell death. Additionally, we also plan to deliver the enzyme MlrA, in order to degrade microcystin toxins produced by the cells. Our Cas13 system is highly target-specific, so therefore should not have adverse effects on other aquatic organisms. This project will help to improve water quality in Alberta and around the world.