Students develop effective mould for production

Monday 16 Nov 20

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Christopher Workman
Associate Professor
DTU Bioengineering
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Henrik Toft Simonsen
Associate Professor
DTU Bioengineering

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Blue Dot projects

DTU’s Blue Dot projects are student-driven undertakings that cross boundaries between study programmes, semesters and departments. Blue Dot projects are to produce sustainable solutions, and they make high demands on the participants because they run alongside the ordinary teaching schedule.
It must be possible to use the results from the projects in practice and present them at an engineering competition or similar, for example. The projects are run in close contact with the business community or other relevant stakeholders—both internal and external.
Learn more about Blue Dot Projects and other student Projects at DTU.

Reshape—DTU Biobuilders

Read more about Project Reshape on the team’s official wiki, which provides an overview of the team’s achievements in the competition.
 
DTU students are competing in an international synthetic biology competition (iGEM), presenting new tools to control moulds in biotechnological processes.

MSc students from DTU BioBuilders, a DTU Blue Dot project, have developed moulds that can streamline the production of proteins used in food, detergents, and medicines. In addition, the students have developed computer models that simulate the growth of the moulds and studied their properties at the cellular level. The project will be presented at the international synthetic biology competition, Igem, in November 2020.

“Our findings show that if we remove selected genes in the moulds, they become more effective at producing proteins. We also predict that the moulds will be easier to use in industrial production because they arrange themselves into small clumps during production rather than becoming entangled in each other like a ball of yarn,” says Niels Knudsen, MSc student of biotechnology at DTU and a member of DTU BioBuilders.

Effective production

Niels Knudsen explains that the team has conducted experiments on their genetically modified moulds in small fermentation tanks where they have proved effective in producing enzymes. The best moulds have been selected from the ten different strains of mould that the team have genomically modified during their project. Among other things, the team have used the CRIPSR method, which uses proteins to remove or insert genes into a DNA strand.

The students have also developed a method to characterize moulds, which means that the increased production can be explained by an altered structure at the cellular level. The method is based on the students first taking high-quality images of the moulds with DTU Bioengineering’s confocal microscope and characterizing the frequency of branching and the compactness of the individual moulds. Then they observed that changes which led to an increase in branching generally also led to higher enzyme production. 

Simulations can provide new insight

The students have subsequently developed a model that can simulate the growth of the mould based on experimental data. These calculations could pave the way for intelligent design of cell factories, where researchers use their knowledge of a biological system to simulate its exact behaviour before they build it in real life.

DTU BioBuilders will be participating in the Igem conference, which takes place from 14-22 November. In previous years, Igem has been held as a physical meetup in Boston for several thousand students from over 40 countries, but this year the conference moves online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Igem

The International Genetically Engineered Machine (Igem) Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to education and the advancement of synthetic biology through the organization of an international competition based on an open community and collaboration.

Igem Foundation runs two main programs: the Igem Competition - an international team competition made up of predominantly undergraduate students interested in the field of synthetic biology; and the Registry of Standard Biological Parts - a growing collection of genetic parts use for building biological devices and systems.

Igem began in January 2003 as an independent study course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where students developed biological devices to make cells blink. This course became a summer competition with 5 teams in 2004. In 2019 it has expanded to 350 teams, reaching more than 40 countries.

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