My name is Esteban G. Bermúdez-Berríos, a Chemical Engineering undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez Campus. My hobbies include swimming, playing videogames, watching wrestling, and ecological tourism. Ever since my elementary school years I have been very curious and interested in learning about the world that surrounds us. Luckily, my grandmother was a teacher and she helped through this stage to develop study habits that would make me learn new concepts much faster. In middle and high school, I was exposed advanced courses in science, mathematics and technology which helped me decide on majoring in Chemical Engineering. During my years as an undergrad, my research has focused on drug delivery and regenerative medicine using different materials as nanocarriers. I have also taken electives on Materials Science and Engineering, and this has motivated me to pursue graduate studies in interdisciplinary programs where I can work with materials for biomedical applications. Besides Engineering, I am interested in public policy and science policy, through which important developments and inventions from the lab can be converted and scaled up into data-based proposals for the benefit of every person.
Determining Optimal Conditions for Intimin Protein Expression for the Detection of Pathogenic Escherichia coli in Food Products
Esteban G. Bermúdez-Berríos1, Yining Hao2, Hadley Sikes2
1Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez
2Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Food-borne pathogens are a significant problem in food safety worldwide, affecting about 600 million people and resulting in approximately 420,000 deaths. The development of tests for the detection of pathogens is one of the most important steps towards preventing diseases from getting out of control. By having tests available, affected populations can be monitored to plan the response to outbreaks of pathogenic bacteria or viruses. If testing devices that identify surface proteins of pathogenic bacteria are designed to require easy preparation and provide results quickly with high reliability, they can be used in regions with limited access to healthcare facilities and specialized equipment. In this study, we seek to determine the optimal conditions to overexpress intimin, a protein specific to pathogenic E. coli strain O157:H7, to be used as the analyte for detection. Our results suggest that intimin is better expressed at lower temperatures but needs a plasmid that induces the cells to overexpress the protein into inclusion bodies. Previous studies have only used intimin as a protein to display on the bacterial membrane surface. Therefore, although intimin is a potential candidate for E. coli detection, improved expression of intimin is necessary so that it can be purified and used to find binders with high affinity. Developing tests that can be used in settings where food products are processed will help in achieving improved food safety and nutrition everywhere in the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries.