Team:UCL/Project

From 2013.igem.org

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<p class="abstract_title">Circuit Overview</p>
<p class="abstract_title">Circuit Overview</p>
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Our genetic circuit aims primarily to remove amyloid plaques in the brain, which are strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Our circuit focuses on three core parts; firstly, a promoter which responds to oxidative stress - this can be used as a proxy to detect plaques. Secondly, a plaque-degrading protease, which will be secreted in response to oxidative stress, and thirdly, a chemoattractant, also secreted in response to oxidative stress, which will draw more microglia towards the plaque. We have also developed our own selectable marker, which we can use to select for transformations of mammalian cells.
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Our genetic circuit aims primarily to remove amyloid plaques in the brain, which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. To target amyloid protease expression to plaque sites, we developed a eukaryotic oxidative stress promoter.  
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<p class="abstract_title">Detection</p>
<p class="abstract_title">Detection</p>
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Senile plaques increase the rate of production of reactive oxygen species which is damaging to brain cells. We capitalise on this, by creating a promoter sensitive to oxidative stress, in order to initiate the production of other circuit parts.
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Senile plaques increase the rate of production of reactive oxygen species that are damaging to brain cells. We capitalise on this, by creating an oxidative stress promoter, in order to initiate the production of other circuit parts.
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<p class="abstract_title">Degradation</p>
<p class="abstract_title">Degradation</p>
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We expressed and characterised MMP-9 in several chassis. MMP-9 is a matrix metalloproteinase that is capable of degrading amyloid. By increasing its expression in de-activated microglia, we hope to be able to reduce amyloid burden in Alzheimer’s disease.
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We expressed and characterised MMP-9, a matrix metalloproteinase that is capable of degrading amyloid. By increasing its expression in de-activated microglia, we hope to be able to reduce amyloid burden in Alzheimer’s disease.
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<p class="abstract_title">Selectable Marker</p>
<p class="abstract_title">Selectable Marker</p>
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We used resistance to zeocin, a cell killing glycoprotein, to act as a selectable marker transformation/transfection in all our chassis, E.coli, HeLa and microglia.
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We used resistance to zeocin, a cell killing glycoprotein, to act as a selectable marker for transformation/transfection in all our chassis, E.coli, HeLa and microglia.
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<p class="abstract_title">Future Developments</p>
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Our circuit design is far from finished; given sufficient time in the lab, we would have included several other important components, including the de-activating agent VIP and the support factor BDNF.
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<p class="abstract_title">Safety</p>
<p class="abstract_title">Safety</p>
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For experimental procedures, it is essential that both the personnel and the experimental products are as safe as possible to avoid harm. Risk may be minimised by following safety procedures for any likely situations that may occur in the laboratory environment.
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It is essential that both personnel and experimental products are as safe as possible to avoid harm. Risk may be minimised by following safety procedures for any plausible dangerous situation that may occur in the laboratory.
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Revision as of 09:49, 4 September 2013

Genetic Engineering

Ethical Questions

This year, the UCL iGEM team is taking a radical new step with synthetic biology. We intend to explore the potential application genetic engineering techniques on the brain, because it is the site of some of the most subtle, and many of the most devastating diseases known to medicine. We have devised a genetic circuit for transfecting into a novel chassis for iGEM that is rarely engineered in research - microglial cells, the resident immune cells of the brain. The circuit aims to boost the ability of the microglial cells to break down senile plaques, which are associated with the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as to protect neurons under threat from these plaques and from inflammation. Alzheimer’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disease that is characterised by the loss of recent memory and intellectual functions. Late stages of the disease often see patients bedridden, mute and incontinent. It is a horrific condition for which a genetic engineering response is both pertinent and somewhat disconcerting. Therefore, we also delve into the neuroethics of the potential progression of synthetic biology in neuroscience.

Click the abstracts below to read more.