One of the most popular tracks in iGEM has always been Health & Medicine. There were over 50 teams in this track in 2015 competing for a track prize and several nominations. Because of the number of teams competing for this award, iGEM HQ decided to split the Health & Medicine track into two new tracks: Diagnostics and Therapeutics.
How do you know if your project fits into the Diagnostics track, the Therapeutics track or maybe both? It depends on where you choose to put the focus of your project. Is your project more focused on detecting illness and disease, or on treating it? What parts have you made? Does your project detect pathogens or disease states, or does it pave a way to treat medical conditions? If you are working on both issues, you may want to think about what aspect of your project is working better before selecting a track, or splitting your team and having two projects.
You will find images and abstracts of the winning Therapeutics track teams from 2016 below.
MSCavalry: MSCs of Next Generation
With great power to suppress adaptive immune system as well as innate immune system, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are promising candidates for cell-based therapy to treat inflammatory diseases, such as IBD, encephalitis, etc. However, clinical trials of MSCs have demonstrated that only a few MSCs can indeed arrive at the inflamed tissue after systematic administration and exert their immunomodulatory function due to the inefficient homing ability of MSCs. This year, MSCs of next generation are coming. In our project, we will 1) Empower MSCs with a series of chemokine receptors in order to ensure its effective homing. 2) Introduce several kinds of positioning system, such as luciferase to locate in vivo MSC and assure their arrival at the inflamed tissue. 3) Design a switch to kill MSCs when they differentiate into other types of cells. Finally, we will confirm our engineered MSCs in animal models, such as IBD and DTH.
GENE THERAPY OF EPITHELIAL BASED ON THE TARGETED DELIVERY OF CRISPR/CAS9 BY A BACTERIAL TOXIN
Our team develops a system for the targeted delivery of CRISPR/CAS9 in order to fix Cystic Fibrosis (CF) mutations in the epithelium tissue. A comprised of a CRISPR/CAS9 plasmid linked to the B-subunit protein of the cholera toxin. The pentamer B-subunit is used here as a homing device, since it can bind with high affinity to the various ganglioside molecules present on the cell membrane of all epithelial cells. It has been found that regenerating respiratory epithelial cells of CF patients carry the asialo-GM1 ganglioside. The binding of the B-subunit to its receptor molecules results in the internalization, probably by endocytosis, of the protein, together with its linked cargo plasmid. Once inside the cells, the labile link can be cleaved. The released plasmid is then set free to reach the nucleus where it can be transcribed to his CRISPR/CAS9 components and fix the CF mutation by homologous recombination in vivo.