Since 2010, Genspace has been providing open lab access to independent researchers. Starting in February 2018, we are organizing Community Projects as a way to build group collaborations.
Community Projects are group research projects facilitated by Genspace and run out of our lab. Participants pay $100/month to be members of Genspace and have the opportunity to explore advanced lab techniques in a supportive and collaborative environment. Community Members may participate in multiple projects. You can apply to join a community project here.
This spring, Genspace is supporting three different research areas:
Genspace member Craig Trester has opened his mycoremediation project to community members. He seeks to train local mushroom species to biodegrade common organic pollutants. Imagine introducing mycelia to bioremediate toxic soils, digest asphalt, or simply create carbon-negative building materials. Join the group project and learn everything you wanted know about fungi and bioremediation.
Group members will identify local mushroom species using DNA barcoding, grow them in the lab, and train them to degrade common environmental pollutants like petroleum and cigarette butts. We’ll eventually expand the scope to include asphalt, pesticides/herbicides, and more. Along the way, we’ll explore both bioinformatics and how mushrooms function in the forest, kitchen, runway, and construction site.
Open Plant Collaboration
Scientists have been engineering plants since the 1970s, but they have been increasingly used in synthetic biology because they can assemble elaborate proteins (eg antibodies) that other organisms just can’t. Genspace hopes to join an international consortium of research on the Open Plant Project to use liverwort M. polymorpha to generate complex proteins.
M. polymorpha has traits that make it ideal for bioengineering. Its small size and fast lifecycle, allows experiments to be carried out quickly and easily. We will start with the basics: cloning and propagating liverwort cultures. The first engineering aspect of the project will be to “domesticate” this organism, making it easier for researchers to work with, followed by practicing transformation procedures to make our plants glow. As group members learn to work with this plant, we will begin building novel circuits and expressing interesting proteins such as antibodies, cytochromes, and inteins.
Optogenetics is a genetic tool to make cells responsive to light. In some cases it has been used to heal blindness, and in others it has been used to manipulate and understand animal behavior by switching on and off neurons in the brain. In synthetic biology, optogenetics is increasingly used to induce expression of desired genes in bacteria and yeast. Optogenetic systems are easy to assemble and control within cell cultures.
Group members will start exploring by constructing optogenetic systems that display colors as outputs. Once we learn the system we can harness optogenetics to control gene expression in 2-D using different combinations of red, green, and blue light. Some potential results might be bacterial photographs, patterned biomaterials, and inducible control of useful enzymes like Taq polymerase. The project will provide a fantastic learning experience and an introduction to cutting edge synthetic biology techniques for controlling living systems.