User:Jonathan Cline/Notebook/Melaminometer

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Melaminometer: Easily Detect Harmful Melamine and Related Analogues.

December 22, 2009 - Reuters India: China arrests father active on melamine milk issues By Lucy Hornby - BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing police have formally arrested a man who organised a website for parents of children who became ill after drinking tainted milk after his own son became sick. Zhao Lianhai founded "Kidney Stone Babies" to provide information and resources for parents after about 50,000 Chinese infants were hospitalised last year after drinking milk formula delibrately tainted with melamine. At least six babies died. Police delivered formal arrest papers to his wife, Li Xuemei, on Monday, charging Zhao with the crime of picking quarrels and provoking trouble, she told Reuters. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment. Police had taken Zhao away from his home 37 days before. After an initial cover-up during the Olympic Games in Beijing, China jailed or executed a handful of farmers, milk dealers and executives at Sanlu, the dairy firm that sold the tainted milk, but never announced the sentences for government officials detained after the scandal.
December 10, 2009 - China Detains Three In New Toxic Milk Scare - BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have detained three people suspected of selling milk powder tainted with melamine, state media said on Thursday, the industrial chemical involved in a massive toxic food scandal last year. The report, citing police, said they sold 5.25 tons of melamine-laced milk powder to Nanning Yueqian Food Additive Company, based in the southern region of Guangxi.
Monday, July 20, 2009, Univ of Minnesota - University of Minnesota researcher Lawrence P. Wackett from the U. Minn. Wackett lab uses prior research on the melamine deaminase enzyme in collaboration with Bioo Scientific to produce a simple ELISA test kit for use in detecting melamine in food products.
Thursday, March 26, 2009, Business Week (AP) - Minnesota agency tests find melamine in crackers. Minnesota Department of Agriculture is advising consumers to avoid eating Fortuna brand sugar crackers after lab tests found they contain melamine. Exposure can lead to kidney and urinary tract problems. There have been no reports of illness from eating the crackers. The department is conducting a broader search for Fortuna products in other stores around the state.
Monday, October 27, 2008 - China discovers eggs tainted with melamine. By DAVID BARBOZA, The New York Times. SHANGHAI, China - Hong Kong food inspectors have found eggs imported from northeast China to be contaminated with high levels of melamine, the toxic industrial additive at the heart of an adulteration scandal over Chinese milk products. The findings have raised new concerns here that a far wider array of China-produced foods than previously believed could be contaminated by melamine, which already has sickened more than 50,000 children in China and led to at least four deaths. Melamine C3H6N6

For biologists: Read the "Much needed product for world health" proposal first, then skip to the "Specific Metabolic Activity".

For DIY-biologists or iGEM types: Read the "As proof of DIY Bio" proposal first, then skip to "Biochemistry Background".

For non-scientists and/or normal people: Read the "Much needed product for world health" proposal first, then skip to "Toxicology Background" and other background information.

Project Proposal people viewed this page.

Product Need

  • Commercial food testing is unlikely to change in the short term
  • Commercial testing has failed to meet safety standards demanded by consumers
  • A method for establishing harmful content in food is needed at "Point-of-care"
    • Harmful product may especially exist in resource-constrained communities where commercial testing is lax
    • Consumers should have a means of testing food themselves.




Historical Perspective

January 2009: The research is the first to positively link the plastic-making chemical with kidney problems, though doctors had strongly suspected a causal relationship. Melamine-tainted milk is blamed for the deaths of six children in China and making another 290,000 people sick. Melamine-tainted candy is suspected in the illness of a Virginia girl and in the unexplained illness and deaths of thousands of family pets throughout the United States.

-- Chinese Experts Confirm Melamine-Kidney Stone Link

December 2008: "Now melamine is being discovered in other foods, which are turning up worldwide. [..] Since melamine is in animal feed in China, it has now been detected in eggs; it has also been found in wheat gluten and other foods. Furthermore, the FDA has found trace levels of melamine in several U.S. infant formulas. A number of suspect foods from China tested by the FDA were found to contain melamine (see table), and more are being reported around the world each week. [..] In today's world, it is crucial to understand and deal with the global implications of foodborne diseases if problems like the melamine epidemic are to be prevented."

-- New England Journal of Medicine, Melamine and the Global Implications of Food Contamination, Julie R. Ingelfinger, M.D.

November 2008: U.S. FDA halts all dairy imports from China, plus cheese, cereals, bakery products, ready-to-eat packaged breakfast foods, soft drinks, soft candy, cat and dog food.


October 2008: Harmful levels of Melamine contamination found in eggs exported from China to Hong Kong, in bread in Taiwan, and in crackers in Philippines. Popular media reports over 50,000 people adversely affected.

2008: Large-scale contamination found in wide variety of milk products exported from China. Hospitalized and/or affected population reported in popular media to be between 10,000 and 50,000 people. U.S. FDA issues guidelines for maximum content.

2007: Pet food contamination triggers intensive research into chemically or physically determining presence of harmful agents & their metabolic pathways.

Mid 2000s: Metabolism of melamine and/or related compounds in bacteria metabolism studied in further detail using genetic analysis.

Mid 1990s: biotech interest in melamine metabolism due to possibility of enhancing plant nitrogen takeup in optimizing fertilization. Not much known about metabolic pathway. Nothing known about related gene expression. Bacterial strains known; Pseudomonas isolates, two Klebsiella isolates, and a Rhodococcus isolate).

Early 1990s: Melamine catabolism studied as means to degrade atrazine herbicide in the U.S. Pseudomonas used and first plasmids created.

Mid 1980s: HPLC analysis allows quantitative measurement of melamine pathway; prior to this, identification of intermediates is difficult.

Late 1970s: Partial, tentative, data into melamine degradation is published.

Design Team Schedule

NYMU holidays: 1/1/09-1/4/09 (New Year), 1/25/09-1/30/09 (Chinese New Year)
  • Oct 08: Initial requirements & research
  • Nov 08: Set design goals. Initial dry lab design ideas.
  • Dec 08: Wet lab eval and initial measurements.
  • Jan 08 (planned): Fix dry lab design. Wet lab implementation.
  • Feb 08 (planned): Wet lab measurements from design. Feedback into model.
  • Mar 08 (planned): Report on working results.

As of Feb 2008, this project has not moved forward due to inability for synthetic biology labs to scope engineering of a suitable detector as proposed by this design. Thus, this project is currently vaporware, until technology can catch up to the proposed genetic circuit.

Design Team Meetings