Before we start:
Different from making questionnaires to investigate the demanding, we made crawler and word cloud analysis in some popular science videos for acne treatment on video websites, aiming at understanding people's attitude and demand for the existing acne treatment methods accepted by the public.
The results are as follows:
Through the above analysis, we can get the following conclusions:
i) The focus of different videos is very different, and there is no uniform method.
ii) Tending to go to the hospital may imply that the current drugs are not targeted and difficult to control accurately, although it may be troublesome to see a doctor. At the same time, this conclusion guides our products to actively cooperate with hospitals, and can combine products with medical devices.
iii) There are many "useless" in some videos, indicating that some popular methods are not effective.
iv) The high-frequency appearance of words such as "allergy", "peeling" and "pores" indicates that users also pay attention to other efficacy of treatment methods when removing acne, and implies that the existing treatment methods have certain side effects, which is also the place that our products need to pay attention to.
To find more ideas about existing acne-treating products, we also came to shopping guides for advice. (However, none of them were willing to take photos with us.) Here we got some ideas.
One shopping guide said that there was a small part for acne-treating products in cosmetics market most of which is full of cosmetics to skin whitening or to remove wrinkles. So she thought it was meaningful if we can make it, for this is a potential market since more and more people are chasing to be more beautiful. Some of the nowadays products may block the pores of our skin, which is more harmful.
Professor Fei Gan
Professor Fei Gan mainly works on the synthetic biology of microorganisms, and is experienced in the area of microbiology and symbiology. She is also an editorial board member of Frontiers in Microbiology. Her main research directions include the energy metabolism and biosynthesis of microorganism and genetic codon extension technique.
About chassis, Professor Gan pointed out that our current choice, Escherichia coli, stands out for its clear background and great convenience to edit. However, as a species originally settling in the digestive tract of human body, E. coli may have difficulty living on the skin surface even after our edition. Professor Gan noted another species isolated from human skin, Staphylococcus epidermidis, could be a choice for our project.
In later research we found out that S. epidermidis has little background research and practical protocol on genetic modification, and possesses a threat of causing epidermal and mucosal infection. For reasons above, we still chose E. coli as our chassis.
About the burden in metabolism, we consulted on how to engineer bacteria’s ability to decompose fatty acid. She proposed that it is possible by overexpressing enzymes related toβ-oxidation, especially those catalyzing rate-limiting reactions. But the expression of the enzyme (as well as our bacteriocin) is an unavoidable cost for the engineered bacteria, so adjustment for the strength of relative promoters is needed. She suggested that if time permitted, we could try a set of promoters of different strength to find out the most suitable one.
About the recovery of microbiome, she pointed out that although our design is logically practical, the lack of experiment results actually makes our project vague and uncertain. We need further experiment results to make it more confirmed.
Dr. Hong Ding
Doctor Hong Ding is a professor in the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Wuhan University and a consultant expert of Wuhan Science and Technology Commission, executive director of Wuhan Pharmacological Society，deputy director of the non-clinical drug research center. She is very experienced in the research of drug and xenobiotic metabolism, and has made a great breakthrough in the field of acne treatment.
About the cause of acne, she thought that many of us were wrapped in a misunderstanding that to eliminate acne, we must clear out oil and P. acnes. Actually, P. acnes exists in our skin and decomposes the fatty acids so as to maintain the specific pH. Only if the over secretion of fatty acids can arouse the over proliferation of P. acnes, which is the true cause of acne, so we’d better find the suitable way to make accurate cure.
About our design, she said we needed more experiment data to perfect our work. We thought it coincided with our DBTL cycle.
During our experiment:
Prof. Zhixiong Xie
He is a professor in the Department of Microbiology, College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University. He mainly studies microbial genetics, physiology and biochemistry. During the experiment, we encountered some problems and asked him for help. He provided us with many meaningful ideas.
About how to insert two plasmids into one cell, he suggested that it’s better to insert and screen it one by one with creating the competent cells by CaCl2. (Actually, we tried to insert plasmids by electroporation and got good results, too. We thought this is for the high efficiency of electroporation than conversion by chemical methods.)
About how to make epPCR, he adviced we could do as the protocols from literature we found and then adjust some of the points. After PCR, we’d better connect the product with T vector. T vector has a high efficiency of connecting and fidelity, we can store our target fragment here.
About inclusion body, he said the reason may be the fast synthesis of protein. It’s worth trying to do in lower temperatures and low concentration of substrate, letting the peptide chain accomplish the process of folding slowly enough
About examining the expression of some certain proteins, we could test the mRNA by RT-PCR only if it was not in the genome. Testing His-tag after purification is also a suitable way with uncertain activity. There is also a rough way by detecting the enzyme activity, if so, we can start to pure and do PAGE.(May there would be threatened background noise)
By the end of our project:
Dr. Hong Ding
This time, we turned to Dr Hong Ding for a second visit, for she does so well in both science and turning the results into business, which can make a large scale for satisfying the demand of many kinds of patients.
About the suitable type of our product, she said both the lyophilized powder and gel areviable. What we should focus on is how to ensure the activity of activated bacteria. Moreover, whether the gel is suitable for bacteria to live is to be considered.
About the position of our product(whether we make it as cosmetics or drugs), she advised us to do research about whether bacteria is permitted in cosmetics or in drugs, and whether we need to apply for the permission of relevant institutions.
About the business part, she emphasized the comparation of the similar products and consideration of what our benefits are and how we can avoid the by-effect.
Dr. Min Wang
Dr. Min Wang is a plastic surgeon in Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, who is good at personalized design of facial skin, treatment of color spots, acne, vascular diseases, sensitive skin repair, etc.
We interviewed Doctor Wang to paint a picture of how doctors diagnose and treat acne, the most common skin disease, and tried to get some first-hand suggestions from an experienced doctor.
About diagnose, she explained that in most cases doctors can diagnose and estimate the severity of acne directly from the change of skin surface. Blood test is sometimes used if doctors doubt that patient’s symptom is caused by abnormal hormone level. In recent years polarized light analysis has been used to reveal the metabolism of P. acnes, which thus helps in diagnosing acne.
And about the drug delivery, she told us that currently there are two standards for cosmetic drugs, one for life cosmetology and one for medical cosmetology. For the former, always in forms like facial cream or spray, it is convenient to use but hard in production; for the latter, like powder activated before use, it is effective enough but we need to concern about its safety. Fortunately, our design of lyophilized powder can solve this problem.
After this period of interview, we made our type of product clear.
About market and application
“LuoJiaZhiHang” Practice Project
Our project participated in the selection of the school's employment guidance center. They believed that we had successfully completed the entrepreneurship survey and market research of our products and objectively evaluated the future development of synthetic biology.
Humanwell & Ascentage
We set up a meetup online with managers of Hubei Humanwell Chengtain Pharmaceutica co., LTD and Ascentage Pharma. These two companies were contacted by our group leader in real word.
They provided us with some ideas in the type of our product and conduct our business plan (BP). For more detail, click here.