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Baker's yeast to help in fight against blue-green algal toxins

A team of students from Aalto University and the University of Helsinki will take part in the iGEM competition a world-wide, synthetic biology event.

Aalto University iGem Team students. Photo: Pezhman Mohammadi / Aalto University

Could baker's yeast help solve the blue-green algae problem, and, if so, how? A team of students from Aalto University and the University of Helsinki have reflected on just this. This autumn, the team will take part in the iGEM competition a world-wide, synthetic biology event.

A multitude of different characteristics that have evolved through extensive evolution into effective mechanisms are found in normal species. Spider webs, for example, can be stronger than steel, and some bacteria have the ability to make use of certain hazardous substances. Synthetic biology can be used to copy characteristics found normally in nature and utilise these them in industry, for example, in the development of new improved materials or in the medical field in the search for new forms of treat for diseases such as cancer.

The team from Aalto University and the University of Helsinki utilises baker's yeast modified through synthetic biology for the detection and removal of toxins found in blue-green algae . The team's objective is to develop a test that will identify toxins, with the enzyme in baker's yeast in turn, breaking down the toxins.

Science in real life

The competition's main event the Giant Jamboree will be held on 27 - 31 October 2016 in Boston, but the competition already began this past spring and will continue through until Boston. The team began conceptualising their project in early March. They developed their idea throughout the spring and now this summer have managed to carry out proper work in the laboratory.

'Participating in this competition is a unique opportunity to experience what it is like to work within the sciences in the real world. At the same time, participants will also learn about other fields. In addition to students of biotechnology and chemical technology the team includes, for example mathematicians,' team captain Laura Laiho says. Competition participants from Aalto University include Pihla Savola, Emilia Broman, Saara Hiltunen, Hele Haapaniemi, Antti Koistinen and Rashad Ismayilzada.

More than 300 teams comprising thousands of competitors have signed up for the competition. The participants also have the opportunity to network with actors in the sector both in Finland and abroad and create contacts with future actors.

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