As we enter the 21st century, infectious diseases still present a challenge to global health. New diseases like Zika emerge, with the threat of becoming pandemic. At the same time, the eradication of neglected tropical diseases, that affect the poorest of the poor, is slowly coming within reach. New infectious diseases emerge from developing regions, and these same regions still struggle with existing diseases. It is these people that have most to benefit for improved diagnostic tests.
Cheap and accessible diagnostics are crucial in our efforts to monitor and control the spreading of new diseases, and to alleviate people from the burdens of existing diseases. No successful treatment is possible without an assortment of diagnostic tests.
Synthetic biology is an engineering discipline that offers innovative technologies and solutions to many of the challenges we will face as we enter the 21st century. We, the Wageningen University & Research 2017 iGEM team, take on the challenge of using synthetic biology to diagnose infectious diseases.
Living cells are high-tech machines that can grow and multiply under simple conditions and at low cost. In this way, advanced technology can easily be made available to all.
Our goal is to reprogram simple bacteria so that they can detect, interpret, and report on markers of disease. The bacteria will detect disease molecules and generate a visual output.
These cheap bacteria will then become the crucial component of our diagnostic test kit. Such a test can be cheap, easy to operate, and in principle be produced locally. The final diagnostic device will be a modular system that can be adapted to diagnose many different diseases, without any advanced laboratory equipment.
This summer, our team will work hard to develop mathematical models to help our designs, and implement these designs by growing bacteria in the lab. We also aim to engage the general public and cooperate with people in the field, working to contain infectious diseases.
We intend to provide scientific advances, promote the role that synthetic biology can play in solving real-world problems, and raise awareness on the impact of infectious diseases and the important role of diagnostics. We hope to represent the Wageningen University in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM), this fall in Boston.
If you have any questions, you are free to contact us at iGEMwageningen@gmail.com