Details on our idea and the outcome

Looking at the specifics of science

Our idea is to genetically engineer nematodes to have the ability to decompose plastic. This is done by replacing a non-coded intron in a germline gene with the Ideonella sakaiensis bacteria (bacteria that can break down polyethylene terephthalate — the main polymer in most plastics).

We will be using CRISPR-Cas9 to genetically engineer Nematodes.

We will decrease the amount of plastic pollution in Canada by 86% in the next 10 years. Nema has set a goal to eliminate the burning of plastic and to practice eco-friendly decomposition of plastic in recycling plants, then focus on the rest of the world.

In 2016, researchers in Japan discovered the bacteria ideonella sakaiensis and its unbelievable properties, allowing it to break down PET. The bacteria produce two enzymes (PETase and MHETase), each focusing on a specific task. The first enzyme, PETase, cuts the polyester polymer of which PET is constructed into smaller pieces. During this process, PET is converted into mono-(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalate acid (MHET), terephthalate (TPA), and bis(2-hydroxyethyl) TPA (BHET). Then the second enzyme produced by Ideonella sakaiensis, MHETase, comes into play. This enzyme converts the MHET into ethylene glycol and TPA. — ([University of Denmark Education](https://bit.ly/3eAOmrw)) The PETase enzyme is what cuts the main part of PET and converts that into these different types of substances. After the first enzyme breaks down the PET substance into substances like MHET, the bacteria’s second enzyme starts to work. This enzyme, MHETase, converts MHET into two substances(ethylene glycol and TPA) that can easily be broken down by microorganisms — resulting in CO2 and H2O.

Gene Editing is a form of technology that allows us to manipulate any living organism’s gene. This is done through a process known as CRISPR Cas9. We will be using this CRISPR and gene editing system to isolate the non-coding intron gene in the Caenorhabditis briggsae of the nematode, and replace it with the Ideonella Sakaiensis bacteria instead. This is because this is a germline gene, meaning the ideonella sakaiensis bacteria will be passed down to future nematode generations. This will then allow the nematodes to gain the ability of the ideonella bacteria, and essentially, break down plastic. If we genetically modify some of the food that these nematodes eat, then once they eat it, it could alter their gene. This is essentially what GMOs or genetically modified organisms are. We can use this system in the genetically modified food, we can essentially get these liposomes to carry the ideonella sakaiensis bacteria and the CRISPR system into the nematode’s gene. Once this has been completed, the liposome will then open, getting the CRISPR Cas9 system to find the non-coded intron gene of the nematode, and replace it.

We plan on impacting billions. Once the first 1000 nematodes have been created, we will then start at a Canadian plastic landfill, and start decomposing. After 2 months, the Nematodes would have had enough time to reproduce and will then exponentially grow to the amount of 10,000. Once we have gained the right amount of nematodes, we will then begin to distribute them to other landfills and corporations to use.