Great ideas and practical designs are the core of synthetic biology development. But what truly makes a project outstanding is its applicability in real life. So our team spent a lot of efforts on pushing our project towards this ultimate goal. Now we would like to illustrate the efforts we had made and the actual results that testify the applicability of our device in real life.

In terms of experiments performed in wet lab, four parts were involved corresponding to four steps in our project’s colon cancer diagnosis process.

First, we examined the T-antigen expression as well as adhesive properties between engineered E.coli and colorectal cancer cell. The results from both cell and mouse experiments returns positive, illustrating that our device is capable of specifically binding with cancerous cells.

Then, we observed gas vesicles in the cancerous tissue of mouse intestines under ultrasound, receiving not only positive results in the distinctness of vesicle signals, but also determination of cancerous section and normal ones. Meanwhile we’ve proved that our nitric oxide biosensor can react to nitric oxide in the environment and synthesize the medicine we needed. Finally, we made sure biosafety by constructing cell lysis pathway that has been tested by plate count method. For more details, see Results page.

Although we had accomplished these experiments mentioned above, we are still not hundred percent sure about whether our project can function properly in real situation in vivo. To solve this problem we built a model to stimulate the environment in human’s colon and the possible behavior of the bacteria. Moreover, in order to make sure that gas vesicle signals can be observed through clinical ultrasonic equipment we built another model to clarify the relationship between the frequency of ultrasound and the intensity of gas vesicles’ signal. The results show great possibility in making this brand new diagnosis method accessible to even the most common hospitals. More details can be found at the Model pages.

While we kept pushing ourselves to make progress in both wet lab and dry lab, we also reached out to experts in relating fields, leading enterprises, patients in hospital and general public. We’re glad that the experts we enquired gave a lot of helpful advice to assist us in developing our project.

International enterprises such as Roche gave us a better understanding of medicine and public’s need to a convenient, noninvasive diagnosis method. We’re surprised to see that there are so many people are actually afraid of traditional diagnosis method like colonoscopy and how widely brand new diagnosis ways are accepted. Thus, we collaborated with 2018 iGEM team Tongji_China to make our engineered systems into a capsule, a real product, taking the first step to make this project applicable to practical use.

On the way developing our project to real device, biosafety is definitely something that requires detailed design and awareness, especially when our device is designed to be consumed orally. Despite the suicide mechanism we’ve designed to prevent our device from remaining in vivo, we also strictly obeyed every rules and regulations approved by iGEM Safety Committee as well as our nation and institution. We also set up a standard to evaluate the safety level of an iGEM project and you can see further details at Biosafety page.