Team:NYCU-Taipei/Human Practices

human practices

For integrated human practices, please visit Integrated HP page!

According to WHO statistics, a person suffers from cardiovascular disease (CVDs) every 16 seconds, and a person dies from thrombus every 37 seconds. Also, the overall mortality rate of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is 37% one year after being diagnosed. There is no doubt that CVDs, thrombosis, and DVT affect human health so severely that the consequences mustn’t be ignored. Therefore, by building an effective prevention method for DVT, we aim to positively impact the health of the general public.

Throughout all our human practices events, we have conducted integrated HP events by consulting stakeholders and experts from various fields, and modified our project consequently. For our collaborations, we’ve hold the 2021 iGEM International Optogenetics Conference and enjoyed a lively discussion on the optogenetics designs with Team KUAS_Korea; we’ve also collaborated with Team TAS_Taipei on wet lab confirmative experiments, and invited them to NYCU laboratory; finally, as an active member of the Taiwan iGEM community, we have joined the 2021 iGEM Taiwan Meetup and learned a lot from our excellent peers. As for education & communication, we have visited Taipei First School High School and Yi-Ching Yuan Elderly Long-Term Care Center; we have also conducted public survey in National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University.

On the social aspect, we believe that our project can potentially improve public health by lowering thrombosis risks with our Nattokinase E. coli  and our detection device; and raise public awareness on CVDs, thrombosis and DVT through our public engagements - including a physical lecture for the TFG Biology Club, a public survey on the knowledge of Nattokinase and the preference of drug delivery form (e.g. capsule or powder), scientific educations through social media platforms, and the health education leaflets we designed and gave out to local elderly care institutions.

On the scientific aspect, we believe that the remote control system that we designed has the potential of bringing changes to the medical field, transforming long-term medication into just one take of capsule, where patients can be given precise amounts of medicine with manipulation from outside the body. Secondly, we designed a kill switch system requiring fewer components than previous iGEM team designs, in other words, an efficient plasmid construction for a kill switch system, which is potentially useful for other biosafety designs in synthetic biology.

Thirdly, with our dry lab, we proposed a software model aiming to predict the cleavage site recognized by the serine protease, Nattokinase, by integrating machine learning algorithms and feature selection based on sequences data of the S8 family. Since Nattokinase cuts not only fibrin but also other substrates, it brings about health benefits other than breaking down thrombosis. We therefore hope to implement our software on not only the prediction of thrombolysis by Nattokinase, but also studying other health effects of it through finding out potential substrates of the protein, by bringing in other protein databases of the human body.
Expert Visiting
Building up our project, we have consulted 3 biotech companies, 2 cardiology professionals, 1 expert on elderly care, 4 professors and 1 researcher on biomedical related subjects.
Dr. Jaw-Wen Chen
Attending Physician, Division of Cardiology, Taipei Veterans General Hospital
We reached out to Dr. Chen by mail first and learned the importance of biosafety. Later on, we had the opportunity to visit Dr. Chen in-person at Taipei Veterans Hospital, and consulted him on the different parts of designs of our project. Now the Attending Physician of Cardiology, Dr. Chen used to be a post-doc researcher in Stanford Medical School and the Associate Vice President of R&D in National Yang Ming University. Having high academic attainments and sufficient experiences in biomedical product development, Dr. Chen provided penetrating advice on the positioning of our Nattokinase LBP product; he not only helped us clarify the focus of our project, but also integrated the concept of preventive medicine into it. After the meeting, we have researched on primary and secondary preventive medicine, and decided to integrate the above ideas into the future directions of our project. Thanks to his advice, Natto It Out has been refined!
Dr. Shih-Lin Chang
Attending Physician, Division of Cardiology, Taipei Veterans General Hospital
During the interview, Dr. Chang reminded us that while using D-Dimer as our biomarker may be a feasible measure for thrombosis detection, we must take the false negative rate and false positive rate of D-Dimer tests into consideration. Also, since D-Dimer tests are more sensitive to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), he also suggested that we narrow down the claimed target of our thrombosis detection kit to DVT. We also gained knowledge on the common complications of DVT, such as pulmonary embolism (PE), which often occurs in COVID-19 patients. Moreover, we learned that DVT, being a fatal cardiovascular disease, has not received enough attention yet; therefore, in the hope of raising public awareness, we were inspired to conduct a health education on DVT both in the elderly community and on our social media platform.
Prof. Hiroyuki Sumi & Prof. Chieko Yatagai
Emeritus Professor & Associate Professor, Kurashiki University of Science and The Arts
We were very honored to have had the opportunity to interview Prof. Sumi, known as "Dr. Natto," the prestigious Japanese researcher who was the first in the world to discover Nattokinase, and Prof. Yatagai, from Kurashiki University of Science and The Arts. Nattokinase is a thrombolytic enzyme derived from natto, a low-cost, well-known Japanese food, which, according to Prof. Yatagai, has recently been proved a functional food in Japan. In our question about whether Nattokinase should be used as a pharmaceutical drug or a kind of daily supplement, Prof. Sumi suggested that profitwise, Nattokinase should be used as a daily supplement rather than medicine due to its cheap value; however, he also informed us that Nattokinase can not only carry out thrombolytic effects, but can also help endothelial cells by promoting tissue-plasminogen activators. Therefore, he believes that Nattokinase has the worth to function as medicine as well.
Prof. Ying-Chieh Tsai
Chair Professor on Industry-Academia Cooperation of National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University
As the pioneer in the field of probiotics in Asia and the leading R&D consultant of InSeed biomed company, Prof. Tsai has rich experience in both the research and development of probiotics. We received critical advice on our biosafety designs, in which he suggested to us that we should not simply use antibiotics to eradicate our genetically modified bacteria. Therefore, we were inspired to propose our kill switch design - the MazEF antitoxin-toxin system. From Prof. Tsai’s view, in the next 10-20 years, the future of probiotics may be directed towards the field of medicine and pharmacy, including medical applications in precision medicine and diseases such as Alzheimer's and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is a great encouragement to us! Moreover, we were introduced with the concept of Live Biotherapeutic Product (LBP); after thoroughly reviewing the guidelines from FDA, we have decided to integrate the concept of LBP into the core of our project!
Prof. Padma V. Devarajan
Professor in Pharmacy and former Head, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technology, Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai, India
Prof. Devarajan is an Indian professor who specializes in drug encapsulation and targeted drug delivery; she also had experiences in instructing other iGEM teams in the past. We consulted her on our “alginate coated with PEGylated chitosan” encapsulation method, and told her our concerns about the uncertainty of putting such a novel design into our project. Prof. Devarajan suggested us to simplify our encapsulation method, since it may not be the main focus of our project, and that although our original idea is an intertesting design, it does not necessarily require a highly complicated method to achieve the same goal - which is delivering our genetically modified bacteria into the gut. After receiving this critical piece of advice, we made a huge change to our encapsulation part, and modified it by using capsule for delivery instead.
Mr. Katsuhito Hayashi
Graduate Student, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, The University of Tokyo
Now a graduate student in Tokyo University, former iGEMer, Mr. Hayashi, has kindly shared with us his iGEM and laboratory experiences, and his knowledge on how the gut microbiota contributes to the human immune system. We learned that more than trillions of microbes live in our gut and these microbes are believed to contribute to our body homeostasis and digestion, as well as many diseases, such as diseases that are related to the lung, liver, and central nervous system.
Biorich Bio Technology Co. Ltd.
We had the opportunity to interview Mr. Wang, the manager of Biorich Bio Technology. Mr. Wang provided us with his hands-on experiences working in the probiotic product industry. We gained the knowledge of different encapsulation techniques, including the one we chose to implement in our project, the freeze-dry technique. We also learned the different stages of freeze-drying a genetically modified bacteria. Also, we came to know that adding cyroprotectants prior to freeze-drying process is the key to protecting the genetically modified bacteria from being destroyed.
MegaPro Biomedical Co., Ltd.
We interviewed MegaPro Biomedical company, and received advice on our oral delivery system. From the perspective of experimental verification, the manager of MegaPro also recommended that we simplify our encapsulation idea. The reason was that our project already involved quite a lot of innovative designs, including gene-edited E. coli  Nissle 1917, detection system, and optogenetic system. And the more novel designs we put into the project, the harder it would be to confirm the overall result, since it would be harder to confirm which part of the design contributes to unexpected experimental results. Accordingly, we modified our oral delivery design after consulting with them.
Chih-Sung Yu
Chief of Yi-Ching Yuan Elderly Long-Term Care Center
As the chief of the local elderly care center, “Yi-Ching Yuan,” Mr. Yu provided us with critical opinions on the long-term health care for the elderly community. We learned from him that there are many existing problems on elderly care in the society, such as the unbalanced ratio between low numbers of institutes and high needs in long-term care, the serious population aging problem in Taiwan, the rising significance of various kinds of personal care assistive device, and so on; Also, we acquired the knowledge that in order to reduce the heavy burden of elderly care, other than the social welfare provided by the government, early prevention of cardiovascular diseases is needed. After interviewing Mr. Yu, we conducted a community service by providing health education leaflets to the elderly community. Furthermore, we were greatly motivated to continue our work, “Natto It Out,” to decrease the risks of developing serious complications of deep vein thrombosis by continuous intake of Nattokinase, with the aim of improving the life conditions of the elderly community and the quality of their life in later years.

Authored and maintained by Team NYCU-Taipei 2021.