Environmental, Social, and Economic Impact
For years scientists have been observing the Violacein Pathway. Originating from the Amazon and marine protozoa, the pathway produces violet pigments (Violacein) in common bacteria. Today this pathway is produced in laboratories to dye textiles and is studied for its medicinal properties. Violacein is unique as it has both antibacterial and tumoricidal properties, and thus at the frontier of cancer research. Despite numerous studies, little is known about the capabilities of Violacein and its full effect on protozoa and eukaryotic cells.
Our diagnostic culture imaging will increase efficiency of those studying the Violacein pathway and other pathways with colored signals. An analysis of the RGB value will improve accuracy and precision in measuring the amount of Violacein, Prodeoxyviolacein, Proviolacein and Deoxyviolacein present in a culture. Our project will also add to the current information on violacein and eukaryotic organisms as we are using yeast cultures.
L-tryptophan, the first step in the Violacein pathway, is an amino acid which increases serotonin in the brain and functions as an antidepressant ("L-tryptophan"). High doses can lead to chronic muscle pain and cognitive deficiencies. Violacein's effect in eukaryotic cells on the molecular level is also still unknown. Therefore, additional testing should be conducted before humans receive high exposure. It is also imperative to wear personal protective barriers between the cultures and human skin.
What is the effect of the release of this waste into systems?
A major concern is waste that is generated from an increased production of Violacein. Fifteen percent of healthcare waste produced annually is biohazardous waste. Like most non-sharp biohazardous waste, the end result of the Violacein Pathway will be incinerated or autoclaved.
While the waste produced from the cultures will be a fraction of the global output, it is necessary to preserve limited resources. By measuring cultures with our diagnostic technology, scientists will incur fewer errors from solely human observation, resulting in the production of less biohazardous waste. Often in lab, trials are repeated due to calculation errors or imprecise readings. Our computer simulation will also improve accuracy and reduce the time in the lab analyzing the cultures or repeating trials. With the information stored online, sharing data will be more feasible and thus promote a global education and awareness of the Violacein Pathway.
Is this commercially feasible?
Once commercialized,this system will be able to be downloaded onto computers for easy access. Licenses have the potential to be sold online or instore. By selling our product online, we would increase the overall net profit as less money is spent on the assets required to manufacture the software via CD. By allowing online downloads, we would also reduce carbon emissions that would be produced in the manufacturing and delivery of the product to consumers.
What is the effect of an increased electrical output?
Laboratories consume on average between thirty and one hundred kilowatt hours of electricity per square foot. However, if our system averages 100 kW of power for one hour, it will only consume 0.1 kWh per day ("Managing Energy Costs in Laboratories"). Taking into consideration the other devices used in synthetic biology labs, our diagnostic technology is an energy efficient option. It is also important to consider the amount of resources used to create the cultures, such as electricity for the laboratory, microwave, and other devices necessary to produce L-tryptophan. If our system reduces the need for repeated trials, it is the most cost effective and eco-friendly approach on the market.
How much would it cost to produce?
Not only is our system orders of magnitude cheaper than most commercial bioreactors, taking into account it may cost $0.10 per kWh, it would cost the laboratory $3.65 annually ("Managing Costs in Laboratories"). Considering most lab equipment and electrical bills, this is not only energy efficient but a cost effective solution to repeating trials.
Would this take the position of workers in the lab?
This would not affect the labor required in the lab, but would potentially save time for each worker. Fewer trials would be repeated, but not to the extent that someone would be laid-off. This is assuming that the initial analysis of cultures is mostly accurate.
With aims to educate colleagues and scientists on the safety and environmental impact of our system, we have created a poster that can be displayed in the lab or near the device. It can also be printed out and placed in an 8 ½ by 11 format for personal reference.
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