DTU iGEM Team 2023 - FluoroLoop

Our journey begins amidst news stories and public health anxiety, as more and more reports about the “forever chemicals”, collectively known as PFAS, rings around the Copenhagen area.

For decades, these chemicals went under the radar. Given that their negative effects were not known, and that they are remarkably stable , lipophobic and hydrophobic, they were increasingly used in the production of non-stick pans, raincoats, and firefighting foams. However, these positive attributes cut both ways – due to the inherent stability of the C-F bonds present in their structure, these molecules are practically indestructible. This means that when these molecules are polluted into the environment, they simply do not degrade. This stability is rendered dangerous by the fact that PFAS has been linked to cancer, infertility, and a host of other health problems in humans and for the environment (Wang et al., 2023). Clearly, we have a problem – indestructible, dangerous compounds have been steadily leaking into the environment. This is a problem we hope to help solve through the development of our project – FluoroLoop.

The need to clean up the environment of PFAS molecules is clear, but this means that we first need to know where this compound is. This is the specific niche our iGEM team wanted to approach using synthetic biology.

We want to make quick, easy, and cheap detection of PFAS a reality. Our overarching goal is to establish the foundation for a comprehensive system for PFAS detection, followed by centralized data collection, as illustrated in Figure 1. Through this initiative, we aspire to significantly enhance our understanding of PFAS contamination and contribute to the well-being of both the planet and human health.