How synthetic jellyfish could be used to clean up damaging aquatic contaminant spills.

The challenge

Contaminant spills threaten marine environments

Toxic spills in aquatic environments can be disastrous. Contaminant spills, for example, have the potential to cause significant harm to aquatic species, animals and humans nearby.

However, plants, bacterial decomposers or enzymes can be used to remove contaminants and restore the balance of nature in the wake of pollution incidents.

Our response

A synthetic biology soluition

Artificially-engineered multicellular systems are able to perform organism-like functions, such as movement and sensing. This project uses synthetic biology techniques to build a multicellular structure, like biological tissue, which can move, sense and break down chemicals in the environment. The technology is used to detect toxic chemicals in aquatic environments, mimicking natural processes and producing enzymes to break them down.

The results

A new and sustainable approach

While this project is still in the proof of concept stage, it is hoped that one day these jellyfish-like organisms could be deployed to 'hunt and kill' pollutants in marine environments – either at specific sites after contaminant spills or as general 'rovers' looking to detoxify contaminants as they find them.

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