Biological Engineering for Detection of Organophosphate Pollutants
The organophosphate (OP) pesticides parathion and paraoxon cause thousands of illnesses and deaths annually, as they have the same mechanism of action as the nerve gas sarin. OPs are often detected with costly instrumentation after exposure by monitoring degradation products in blood and urine, with few methods for detection and remediation at dispersal. Though some sensors use bacterial degradation of OPs for detection, they are non-specific. We are developing a uniquely different and innovative approach to OP detection and remediation: an engineered microbial coculture for the targeted biosensing and bioremediation of parathion-type OPs. This platform is based on microbial electrochemistry using two engineered microbes. Importantly, the microbe developed to degrade the OPs functions even when lyophilized (and non-viable), negating the need to optimize conditions for two dissimilar strains. This method provides a modular, adaptable strategy that can be expanded to warfare-related toxins, including sarin and mustard gas.
Electrochemical Quantification of Environmental Pathogens
Pathogenic E. coli pose a significant threat to public health, as strains of this species cause both foodborne illnesses and urinary tract infections. Using a rapid bioconjugation reaction, we selectively capture E. coli at a disposable gold electrode from complex solutions and accurately quantify the pathogenic microbes using electrochemical impedance spectroscopy from both urine and food matrices.
Enzymatic Degradation of Groundwater Contaminants
Existing and emerging chemicals of concern present in groundwater require remediation. Of particular concern are classes of tough-to-treat compounds that are not sorptive to traditional ion exchange or activated carbon resins (e.g., perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS) and N-nitrosamines) that have evaded decades of water treatment technologies. We are developing a customizable technology based on enzymatic degradation that can be iterated to target multiple classes of problematic chemicals.