The Leiden student team wants to change this and has therefore developed a ‘lock’ that will make GMOs safer to use. They are producing their Double Plasmid Lock (DOPL LOCK for short) for the international iGEM biology competition. They recently launched a crowdfunding campaign so that they can further develop this innovation.
‘Our idea is to distribute the artificial genetic material of a GMO between two separate pieces of circular DNA, also known as plasmids,’ says Iris Noordermeer, who is doing a master’s in Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology. ‘We give each plasmid its own toxin. By equipping each plasmid with the other’s antitoxin, we ensure that the cell only remains alive if the plasmids are together. This means that an individual plasmid can’t be transferred to another bacteria.’
This lock should therefore make it impossible for GMOs to enter the wild. The plasmids hold each other captive in a tight embrace, Noordermeer explains. ‘That’s why we also call our double safety system a Romeo and Juliet model: one plasmid can’t survive without the other.’