Vitamin deficiencies are a major problem across the globe, especially in low-resource settings. Vitamin A deficiency (hypovitaminosis A) is the primary cause of preventable blindness in children. We hoped to target this ailment by manipulating yogurt bacteria to produce beta-carotene - a precursor that can be converted into vitamin A by the body. Production of beta-carotene coinciding with the conversion of milk to yogurt would result in an enriched dairy product. Considering dried bacteria can be easily packaged and distributed and milk is readily available in many of the areas that have high incidence of hypovitaminosis A, we think this could be an ideal solution.
We successfully introduced four genes in the beta-carotene synthesis pathway into E. coli and designed a shuttle vector for these genes to be transferred into the yogurt bacteria S. thermophilus. In order to improve understanding of this bacteria, we developed S. thermophilus as a chassis and explored its behaviour using transcriptomics. We hope this will encourage people to consider using S. thermophilus and yogurt as a vector for nutrition in the future.
Considering the popularity of yogurt in many low-resource settings, we aimed to enhance manufacturing ability. To this end, we also designed an accessible solar concentrator to assist with pasteurization of milk and highly efficient production of yogurt.