How did we collaborate with other iGEM Teams?

A Collaborative Song about Synthetic Biology

We have created several educational initiatives to reach out to our community about IBD: infographics, newspaper articles, and videos. However, we realized that in order for our audience to fully understand our IBD project, they must first understand synthetic biology itself, the tools and foundations which make our project possible. Therefore, we created a mashup song (for an audience of any age?). We aim to make synthetic biology, which can seem like an intimidating and abstract concept to the general audience, into an interactive experience through song lyrics and an animated lyrics video.

We mixed together four popular songs: Style, Call Me By Your Name, Levitating, and Misery. The listener can enjoy familiar melodies, while the change in song keeps them engaged throughout. The lyrics include everything from the discovery of synthetic biology to techniques such as gene editing. Combined with visual elements from the lyrics video, the listener can gain a general idea of what synthetic biology entails.

On this project, we collaborated with three other iGEM teams: iGEM Warwick and iGEM Concordia, and included their voices in our song. We enjoyed sharing our talents and our passion for synthetic biology with each other. This project was a great chance for us to be inclusive of iGEM teams from around the world while educating our audience about synthetic biology.

King's College London: Application of Mussel Foot Protein in IBD

After reading about KCL’s 2020 iGEM project, we became fascinated by the unique properties of mussel foot proteins (MFPs), which could potentially be applied in the management of IBD. While the exact cause of IBD is unclear at the moment, one model suggests the impaired function of the intestinal barrier to play a role. Disruption of this protective barrier leads to the infiltration of harmful bacteria and subsequently persistent tissue inflammation. Therefore, the focus of the new therapeutic strategy has shifted towards maintaining the integrity of the protective intestinal barrier and preventing the infiltration of pathogens (Praveschotinunt et al. 2019). MFPs have the ability to polymerize and form a tight adhesive layer that can attach to solid surfaces under various conditions. The layer is biocompatible and is able to resist tremendous external mechanical stress. The proteins are also non-immunogenic and are unlikely to trigger further inflammation (Jo et al. 2018). Based on these qualities, we propose using recombinant MFPs to create a protective barrier in the inflamed gut to prevent the infiltration of pathogenic bacteria. The MFP expression system can be incorporated in a probiotic bacteria strain and activated upon exposure to inflammatory signals.

We shared our idea with the KCL_UK iGEM 2021 Team during a virtual meet-up, where KCL also provided an introduction to their project and some relevant properties of MFPs. They shared a great number of resources on MFPs with us, from which we were able to identify the following questions and challenges regarding our novel idea: Which MFPs are good candidates for integration in the gut of an IBD patient? How do the acidity and oxidative environment in the gut affect MFP polymerization? Can recombinant MFPs be efficiently and adequately produced in a bacterial expression system?

We will continue to research this idea and address the above issues in collaboration with KCL. We hope to create a formal proposal for the iGEM 2022 competition and bring this idea to life.

Figure 1. The modified bacteria will express MFPs to form a protective, adhesive layer on top of the intestine epithelium. This can help strengthen the intestinal barrier and prevent the infiltration of pathogenic bacteria.

McMaster SynBio 2021