Synthetic Smells


Making Bacteria smell like Banana 

Using the registry for Standard Biological parts, I had the privilage to experiment with hands-on synthetic biology tools to allow bacteria to exhibit smell of Banana among other smells. This was a project initiated at iGEM (International Genetic Engineering Machine) Competition by a group of students and the methodology which was openly published was utilized to recreate that smell in the New York open Wetware Laboratory at Genspace. 

By putting plasmids that contain genetic parts into using antibiotic selection, colonies were picked and grown in liquid culture. Cultures were scaled up to grow in 200ml bottles and once turbid or dense, these were placed on ice and a small amount of isoamyl alcohol was added, allowing the conversion process to commence. A special odourless knockout strain (a strain that has inactivated, or ‘knocked out’, an existing gene by replacing it or disrupting it with an artificial piece of DNA) was used. To ensure the smell was best kept, a scentless growth medium was prepared.

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While scientifically Banana Bacteria illustrates how synthetic biology can impact the flavouring industry, from a Design perspective it offers an olfactory interaction that interfaces with the user and challenges our senses.

Image Courtesy of Genspace

Image Courtesy of Genspace

The project's Scientific Research has been done by a group of scientists and students, while the hands on experience of working in a community bio lab has given me insight and awareness in to the complex processes of synthetic biology as well as understanding of the powerful world of smell.