Team:Humboldt Berlin/implementation



We started this project with a concrete goal of using minicells as a possible tool for targeting and destroying cancer cells. There are many possible uses for minicells in biotechnology but this one was the most intriguing to us. Even though we knew that this was an ambitious goal and that we would not be able to complete enough research to prove that minicells can be used safely for medical purposes, we would like to take a theoretical approach to this idea and propose what would be the next steps on our way to use minicells as a therapeutic tool.

Steps on the way to real world implementation

We already have achieved purification of minicells, designing models on the average minicell size and life expectancy? Further research on the specific targeting of cancer cells and the efficiency of injecting cancerous cells with toxins using SPI-1 T3SS is needed. After further research on Salmonella Typhimurium derived minicells was conducted, the next step would be to start clinical trials. Potential side effects would need to be monitored closely and documented. If the minicells would be approved for medical use, mass production to use as a therapy tool for a broader population could be implemented and then the ready-to-use product could be delivered to medical professionals to use as advanced precision medicine on patients. Possibly, it would be useful to offer training on how to use this new therapy method. This project does not end after we have implemented minicells as a medical tool though. It would be useful to create an easy to use online tool to report potential side effects. Using this, long term improvement and quality control of our product could be achieved.

Safety aspects to consider

The most important thing to consider, when creating a new therapy method, besides its effectiveness, is the safety of the patients and also everybody that has to work with this method, both in the laboratory and outside “in the real world”.

Since we were working with attenuated Salmonella strains which only express the SPI-1 T3SS, the well-being and safety of our lab team was ensured. Furthermore, minicells are achromosomal and have therefore lost the ability to divide. Due to this and due to their short life expectancy, these minicells have a build-in system by which the risk of them getting out of control and causing damage to the human body is severely limited compared to wild-type Salmonella.

We have already elaborated on the importance of clinical studies. Since the effects of Salmonella derived minicells on the human body as a whole and especially on the immune system has not been researched extensively, we can not predict what kind of side effects this proposed therapy method could cause.

Another concern was the potential for horizontal gene transfer. This is still a possible risk with minicells, since minicells still harbor plasmids and could therefore spread DNA. However, these plasmids express specific tumor inhibiting proteins and hence are no cause of concern for the environment.

Other challenges to consider

With a broader use of this product the challenge of mass production arises. Because of that a quick and cost efficient way of producing treatment kits, containing minicells, must be developed. As scientists we would also want to consider the sustainability and the effect on the environment that mass production of our product would have.

Other important factors are the marketing and distribution of this new therapy method. Human practice and science communication are crucial at this step to inform the groups of people that this method might help and to eliminate potential apprehensions they might naturally have. Human practice by reaching out to companies and people with influence also ensures long term financial support.

When it comes to the distribution of the produced medical kits logistics is another challenge to consider. How would we get our product from point A to B and is worldwide shipping something to work on if the product is successful and efficient enough?