With more and easier access to high-calorie foods the worldwide prevalence of obesity has been on the rise in the past quarter century. In Canada alone, the average rate of obesity has doubled from 1979 to 2004, and approximately 23% of Canadian adults are obese (as estimated by Statistics Canada). Obesity is typically associated with many adverse health conditions and puts an enormous strain on the public healthcare system. Our goal is to engineer a strain of Lactobacillus plantarum to express cellulose synthase genes required for the synthesis of cellulose from glucose and other sugars in an attempt to reduce the caloric intake of food, while increasing the dietary fibre present. Cellulose, or dietary fibre, is a polymer of linked D-glucose units that cannot be digested by humans because of its repeated β(1→4) bonds. It is widely recognized as beneficial to good health, because of this property. L. plantarum is a strain of bacteria which is commonly used to make yogurt, cheese, beer and other fermented foods, and is in fact part of the natural human gut flora. It is present in the plethora of probiotic yogurts and other dairy products currently on the grocery store shelves and is generally recognized as safe. Our strain could be used as a probiotic in combination with a healthy lifestyle to increase overall wellness by reducing sugar intake, promoting a healthy gut flora and increasing dietary fibre in the gut. We've had to adapt to using two novel strains of bacteria with this project and it has been a steep learning curve, but we've figured it all out and have managed to get them to cooperate well. Currently we're working hard on building constructs, removing standard cut sites and extracting and amplifying the cellulose synthase genes we require. We hope to move to biofilm testing by the end of the summer and it looks like we'll make that time line, with the enthusiastic and hardworking lab team we've got! In addition to this, our team is working on generating E. coli - yeast - mammalian crossover parts, as well as characterizing some parts already in the Registry.
All the Ontario iGEM teams gathered at the University of Waterloo for the first ever oGEM gathering on May 29th. During this gathering, we had the opportunity to listen to Andrew Hesselʼs presentation and discuss many issues concerning Ontario teams. One of the major focuses of discussion was forming a federation of iGEM Ontario teams. We all agreed that such an organization needs to be a federation of teams that acts of behalf of Ontario teams as a stronger voice and provides a communication point for teams to assist each other.