User:Jonathan Cline/Notebook/Melaminometer/Much needed product for world health

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Project Proposal

The compounds melamine and cyanuric acid have recently been found to be present and harmful in commercial food products. Melamine apparently combines with cyanuric acid to form a crystaline structure Melamine cyanurate. The crystals cause renal failure, illness and/or death. Industrial quality assurance measures and/or oversight have not removed the risk of contamination and may not do so in the near future.

A method for detecting these harmful chemicals would allow consumers to avoid ingesting harmful foods. The method for detection should operate at the point of care:

  • Consumer usable
    • Simple to use
    • Relatively reliable (does not need to be as rigorous or precise as industrial detection methods)
  • Consumer affordable
  • Consumer available "off the shelf"

Synthetic biology has provided an alternative method to chemical analysis and synthesis by providing biological methods of processing substances. Synthetic biology uses and modifies common biological organisms such as bacteria or yeast to perform new biological functions. The modification to the organism is done at a genetic level to allow for modified gene expressions which create new protein structures and enzymatic interactions. In a controlled manner, the organism can be used to process and/or create new chemical structures via the enhanced biological function.

I propose a biological device ("melaminometer") which uses the metabolic pathways in a genetically modified organism to detect the presence of melamine and cyanuric acid and report this presence to the user.