Telus Spark

DNAquiris anyone?

For our first event in June, we used frozen-thawed strawberries and fresh pineapple juice not only to create a delicious daiquiri, but also to extract DNA within minutes in front of thirsty spectators. In order to do so, we used frozen strawberries and let them thaw at room temperature for roughly half an hour. Using a mallet we crushed them in a Ziploc bag, breaking open the strawberry cells and making the DNA accessible for the extraction. Next we added fresh pineapple juice let it incubate in a warm water bath. An active protease in the pineapple juice, bromelain, denatures the histones and additional proteins holding the DNA tightly together. Now that there is free flowing DNA, we add the magic ingredient, Bacardi rum! One shot allows for the DNA to rise to the surface where it can be picked up using a toothpick.

This sparked conversations regarding GMO foods and flavour enhancers like MSG, and the true science behind them. We got plenty of questions, like “Do strawberries have DNA?” and “Can GMOs be harmful?” While some answers were more complicated than others, we got a wonderful opportunity to debunk any myths surrounding such topics.

Bacteria Art

For our second event we let the imagination of Calgarians run wild with our Bacterial Art station. We prepared 4 different strains of E. coli expressing fluorescent proteins (including GFP, YFP, RFP etc), and participants were able to create their own art pieces on agar plates. We let the artwork grow overnight in the incubator. We then took pictures under UV light and uploaded them to the Telus Spark Facebook page so that the participants could check out their paintings. Click the link below to see all their amazing work!

Both events were a huge hit as we reached out to over 400 people and loved the experience of talking to the general public about synthetic biology. Furthermore, we introduced our prospective project idea. Participants were amazed at the idea of using a living system to detect pathogens in blood. We’re ecstatic to have sparked curiosity in the minds of general public, and shown how exciting science can really be.