Aalto-Helsinki Team Wiki

Aalto-Helsinki Team Wiki



Bronze medal

Competition Deliverables

Team Wiki

Let’s start again from the top. Here’s our wiki homepage.

Presentation Video

Nine months of work summed up in a twenty-minute video. Come shed light on your gut, and take a look at our project presentation video.

Judging Form

Feeling judged? So are we! Visit our judging form to see how we have achieved all medal criteria.


The heart and soul of our project -- our team! Discover how each individual team member contributed to our project, and who else helped us along in this journey on our Attributions page.

Project Description

GutLux is a novel research tool that hopes to assist current efforts in further understanding the connection between our gut health and mental health. Check out our Description page for more.


Data and new information and parts, oh my! Learn how we gave back to the iGEM community throughout our project on Contribution.

Silver medal

Engineering Success

Justification for each decision in our project, and how we designed, tested and improved our biosensor, can be found on Engineering.


We participated in several events relating to synthetic biology throughout the entirety of our project. We made connections with academic institutions and industry partners to help enhance and troubleshoot our project. We also collaborated with the other Finnish iGEM team, Team Aboa, to share experiences and insights on our projects, as well as improve the acknowledgment of the iGEM Competition within Finland. Details of our collaborative activities can be found here.

Human Practices

We ensured that our project would give back to our community and uphold our team’s scientific, social, and moral values throughout the development of GutLux. See how our project would greatly impact the mental health and microbiome research communities on our Human Practices page.

Proposed Implementation

Ready, set, action! Information regarding product development, regulation, and end-user analysis is provided on our Implementation page.

Gold Medal

Integrated Human Practices

How does GutLux impact our community and science for the better? Why is our research tool important?

We believe we achieved gold medal status with our Integrated Human Practices efforts this year, and our work within this subcategory of iGEM was essential in all parts of our project. Our initial goal with our GutLux project was to create a gut microbiome-associated, diagnostic tool to identify different mental health states, as we saw a huge need for improved mental health care within our Finnish community. However, after consulting with experts from a variety of areas like gastroenterology, microbiology, and bacteriology, we came to realize that the study of the gut-brain connection itself was lacking in resources and technology. While we spent our summer creating a research tool for scientists to better understand the gut-brain axis, our attention has never deviated from those who need the tool the most-- our peers. Throughout the entire iGEM project, we fought to reduce the stigma of mental health and educate about gut health through various social media pages, school visits, blog posts, and our own podcast. Since our literature research showed that even scientists have a difficult time understanding the mechanisms behind the gut-brain axis and the gut microbiome, we tried to overcome this communication barrier within the scientific community itself by participating in and hosting conferences for several iGEM teams about this complicated topic. Although our project is simply a proof-of-concept, we wanted to ensure that all of our efforts would meet our top priority, which was the safety of members within our community. Thus, as questions regarding the safety arose during discussions with experts, we sought to dispel all doubt in the real-life implementation of our product. We changed our project design to overcome concerns like the leakage of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the human body, release of patient data, and the capsule’s ease to ingest. Our human practices efforts greatly influenced our project from start to end, and for this, we deserve gold.

Follow our project evolution and influence from start to finish on our Integrated Human Practices.

Proof of Concept

Like any iGEM project, we’ve had our own difficulties with the feasibility of our crazy ideas, but what puts us into the gold medal category is how we overcome these issues to create a novel research tool with huge potential.

We have thoroughly considered how GutLux would work in the real world. From the beginning of our project, we knew we wanted to pick away at the increasing problem of mental illness. But our initial ideas to create a mental health diagnostic tool ran dry, as current scientific literature could not even answer our most pressing questions. We knew what microbiome scientists needed was a more efficient, more reliable tool to understand the connection between microbiota-associated metabolites and mental health illnesses like anxiety and depression. Thus, we created GutLux to meet this need. Our wet lab experiments focused on the practicalities of our project -- creating the biosensor itself. Our dry lab work helped shape the biosensing abilities to best optimize our project. And our work in implementation solidified exactly how these two entities could come together and form a realistic medical device. There’s no doubt that given more time and resources, our tool would work and meet the current research demand.

Further answers to our project’s feasibility and potential can be found in the Proof of Concept page.


We got by with a little help from Team Thessaly.

We contacted Team Thessaly early on in the ideation of our GutLux tool. As a Phase-2 team, they were able to give us advice on iGEM deliverables and guide us through difficult times. Our main collaborations consisted of overcoming biosensor safety concerns, data collection, and various conferences and workshops on microbiome education and data privacy. We helped Team Thessaly with issues concerning the use of foreign DNA outside the capsule, and in return, they participated in our podcast, provided us with a theoretical biological kill-switch mechanism for our E. coli cells, and assisted in ideation with our capsule design. Our partnership was central to our project, and GutLux would be nothing without this collaboration.

Find out more on how we partnered with iGEM Team Thessaly to enhance both of our projects and contribute to the greater synthetic biology community on our Partnership page.

Education and Communication

We made an impact in our Finnish community, worthy of a gold medal.

We recognized the power of social media, and wanted to utilize this for our Human Practices efforts! Our iGEM team is active on four social media sites (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Tumblr) in an effort to educate our followers on topics we are passionate about! We regularly created interactive posts about mental health, gut health, and synthetic biology to kickstart conversations and interest in these topics! In order to reach a broader audience and go more in-depth into such intriguing ideas, we also created the Aalto-Helsinki podcast (streaming on six different platforms) and invited expert speakers to share their knowledge on specific subjects. We also participated in educational community events, like a workshop at a local science museum and visits to primary and high schools.

More information on how we helped educate the community about synthetic biology can be found on Education and Outreach.

Special Prizes


We believe we are eligible for the Best Education special prize as we have actively focused on finding and developing new, innovative ways to share synthetic biology with a more diverse community. We have given presentations online for high school and university students explaining what synthetic biology is, what iGEM is about, and what local issue our team is trying to tackle this year utilizing synthetic biology. We have also created a science kit and a children's booklet with the goal of demonstrating that it is feasible to teach synthetic biology at a child-friendly level far earlier than our present educational system permits. Furthermore, we have actively posted educational content on our Instagram account and collaborated with a Finnish science center, Heureka. Finally, throughout the summer months, we hosted an Aalto-Helsinki Podcast, which was created not only to raise awareness about synthetic biology but also about science in general. To find out how we achieved our goals, read more on Education.


As a part of our project, we constructed our own prototype of the electronic compartment using Arduino Uno. We developed our own Arduino-based programme for measuring the intensity of our expected fluorescent signal, which can then send data wirelessly to a receiver. To mimic the biological signal, we tested our electronic system with a blue-green specific wavelength led that emits light which is close to the theoretical wavelength of the green fluorescence. We were able to send data from this measurement through radio transmittance with transceiver and receiver components. The light-dependent resistor (LDR) and light-emitting diode (LED) were optimized for green fluorescent protein but could also be changed to accommodate use of other fluorescent proteins. In addition to the prototype, we conducted thorough research on different components of our electrical compartment to optimize the system for real-life applications. The details of our prototype development and components can be found on Hardware.

Integrated Human Practices

From the very beginning our human practices continuously shaped the design and direction of our project. Throughout our project timeline, we met with many different experts in sleep, microbiota, gastroenterology, and many more. As we met with these advisors we gained valuable insight to our local community and how our project could be better developed to fit their needs. Most notably, after talking with a pediatric gastroenterologist and a professor of microbiome research we decided to shift our project from a diagnostic or therapeutic clinical product to a research tool for scientist to gain more valuable insight in the gut-brain axis. In addition to meeting with experts, we organized multiple workshops with our partnership team, iGEM Team Thessaly, on the ethics and data safety of our project. These workshops helped us better understand the responsibility we have as creators of a project to ensure positive impacts on society. Complete description of our activities throughout the iGEM year can be found on Human Practices.


Our computational models provided us insights on how our GutLux-capsule would work in a real-life environment and how we could improve the sensing mechanism. We managed to determine sensitivity rates for our two main metabolites, kynurenic acid and tryptamine, to find out if our capsule is capable of sensing different metabolite concentrations in the gut lumen. We also conducted a docking analysis to find out how we could improve the biological detection mechanism inside the capsule. We docked different metabolites to the main protein of our detection system, aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), to see which amino acid residues affect ligand binding. We also conducted further research on how we could optimize the binding pocket for our target metabolites to avoid false positive signals, since there are multiple unwanted metabolites that can bind to AhR. Both models are discussed in detail on our Model page.

Supporting Entrepreneurship

To understand the needs of the targeted end-users, we have met with experts in research and clinical work to gain insights on how we could design the best possible tool to help overcome the challenges of gut microbiota research. We have conducted thorough research on our competitive and local environment to understand our role on the market of ingestible capsules. Furthermore, we have created a clear roadmap for market entry which follows the existing regulations and legislation with the advice from experts in medical device commercialization. Through Integrated Human Practices, we have created valuable connections to our local market segments and become a part of the Finnish Synthetic Biology network, which brings together investors, researchers, and students on a national level. Our entrepreneurial activities have thus created a solid framework for further development of GutLux into a marketable product and ensure the compliance of our design within our market area. To read more, check our Entrepreneurship page.

Aalto-Helsinki Team Wiki