This project was an amazing quest but it wouldn’t be possible without some special people who helped us during the summer. We received lots of encouraging words from many people but there is a difference between words and deeds, here we want to thank those who made some time and took the effort to help us. These people deserve to be in the spotlight because without them this project could have looked completely different, with their expertise and knowledge they showed many directions we could go in. But we don’t only want to thank the people who were actively helping, we also want to thank our family and friends. They supported us all the way and helped us through the difficult moments. So from the bottom of our hearts, thank you!
We thank all our collaborators for their help, guidance and supervision. Without their help we wouldn’t be able to finish this project. Thanks to all the different people below we were able to create and finish our outstanding journey of 3 months, there were lots of ups and downs but we managed to push through. We started in July and during the months of July, August and September we proved that our concept is valid. The whole concept of sensing concentration differences with electrically oscillating cells started from an idea of one of our team members and ended up as finished proof of concept. We managed to create cells that electrically oscillate with a constant rhythm, with transient transfection of ion channels in HEK cells, and managed to alter this rhythm by adding different drugs, used in medicine, at the correct therapeutic concentrations to the cells. This shows that the cells can sense a change of concentration of the drugs and we can measure it. To see what we have accomplished please check our demonstrate page. We didn’t only focus on the experimental work, we developed an amazing model and created an educational journey for kids and young adults. Besides all this we are proud to present our human practices work.
As our first PI, professor Johan Swinnen and his team (Gertjan Werelds in particular), if we needed them they helped us with the small daily tasks. Kasia Malczewska and the rest of the KU Leuven 2015 iGEM team gave us advice and tips on how to work during the summer and passed their experiences to us.
During brainstorm sessions several professors attended and gave their opinion on the ideas so we would like to thank professor Steven Verhelst, professor Rik Gijsbers, professor Geert Bulthynck, professor Joost Schymkowitz, professor Johan Robben, professor Jeroen Lammertyn, professor Vera Van Noort and professor Johan Swinnen for this.
Molecular lab work
Professor Johan Swinnen is a professor and head of the Oncology department at KU Leuven. As our PI, he has provided us with advice, support and lab space. We would also like to thank the rest of his team, especially Frank Vanderhoydonck and Ali Talebi, for showing us around the lab and helping us with the problems we encountered.
Professor Thomas Voets is head of the laboratory of Ion Channel research at KU Leuven. Apart from allowing us to use his electrophysiology tools, he and his team have learned us several techniques valuable for the project, such as patch clamp and calcium imaging. Furthermore, his lab has kindly provided us with HEK cells stably infected with mHCN2 or hERG genes, and several plasmids containing ion channels, such as mHCN, hERG, and α1G. The assistant of professor Voets, Annelies Janssens, trained us to work with the patch clamp machine which is the central piece of machinery in our project. Without this machine, we couldn’t collect our data.
Professor Chris Ulens is head of the laboratory of structural neurobiology, at the department of cellular and molecular medicine at KU Leuven. He has shared his knowledge of the interactions between ion channels and certain drugs.
Dr Mieke Nys is part of the laboratory of structural neurobiology and has supplemented our results with extra measurements of the mHCN gene another patch clamp machine.
Professor Alexander Panfilov is a part of the department of mathematical and theoretical physics at the UGent, specializes in cardiac modelling and has given us advice regarding our model. Furthermore, he has given us the contact details of others who might be able to help. With the help of professor Eleonara Grandi and her assistant Stefano of the University of UC Davis we were able to finish the basic code of our model. Both answered the small questions we had regarding some details of the model. Professor Panfilov and his assistants Nina and Tim De Coster of the University of Ghent helped when we had some small questions, there were closer by so they were able to answer more quickly.
The fundraising was done by the team itself, no external people were involved in this process.
Hardware and measurement
Professor Jeroen Lammertyn is head of the Division of Mechatronics, Biostatistics and Sensors (MeBioS) at KU Leuven. We have discussed the possibilities for measurement and data collection from our cells.
Dr. Frederik Ceyssens is a postdoc at MICAS, at the department of electrical engineering at KU Leuven. We have had a very valuable discussion about the hardware necessary for the measurement of oscillating cells. He helped with the design of the sensor and everything that goes with the sensor, from batteries to the actual sensor itself.
Dr. Dries Braeken is working for imec’s life science technology group. He has experience measuring cardiomyocytes using micro-electrode arrays (MEAs), and we have discussed the possibilities of measuring our cells in a similar way. Together with his PhD students, Jordi Cools and Carl Van Den Bulcke, we tried different sensors and tried to sense the electrical oscillations with the sensor.
Professor Bernard Schneider a senior scientist in the neurodegenerative studies laboratory in the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EFPL). He has provided us with a sample of an implantable macrocapsule, and has confirmed the possibilities of integrating chips in this device.
Professor Adrian Ranga is specialised in tissue engineering. We discussed biomaterials and the immune implications of implantable devices.
Professor Jennifer Patterson is a specialist in hydrogel structures for tissue engineering. She has given us some ideas about the possibilities of integrating a MEA in a hydrogel structure.
Professor Monbaliu is a transplant surgeon at the department of microbiology and immunology at UZ Leuven. He has provided us with insights on how the project could influence the field of transplantation medicine.
Transplantoux is a patient organisation for people that have undergone a transplantation. We would like to thank them for bringing us into contact with patients whose insights were extremely valuable for our project.
Professor Wim Van Paesschen is a neurosurgeon and head of the epilepsy research laboratory of UZ Leuven. He has shed light on the importance of therapeutic drug monitoring in the field of epileptics.
We talked to professor Peter Sinnaeve, a specialist in the field of cardiology, about the implementation of our idea in the treatment of heart diseases. Thanks to his expert opinion we were able to determine what the needs in the field of cardiology are and if our project could benefit patients with heart diseases. The most important information he gave us was the need for a method to check if a certain drug would have an effect on the human heart. Professor Chris Bervoets is a psychiatrist responsible for the department of transcranial magnetic stimulation, the department of deep brain stimulation and the department of compulsive disorders within the University Psychiatric Center of KU Leuven. He has helped us by discussing the several possibilities of our project within the field of psychiatry. As professor Chris Bervoets, professor Filip Bouckaert is an expert in the field of psychiatry. He focused on the fact that anti-psychotics need to be present in a specific continuous amount in the human body to have the best effects. He was very enthusiastic about the possibilities of our product which allows an continuous measurement of that specific type of drug. He led us in the direction of some important and frequently used drugs in psychiatry.
We would like to thank some middle schools: Sint-Romboutscollege (Mechelen), Go Shill (Mechelen), Via Tienen (Tienen), Onze Lieve Vrouw Presentatie (Sint-Niklaas), Atheneum Tienen (Tienen) and Heilige-drievuldigheidscollege (Leuven). We were able to teach amazing kids more about DNA, genetics and the basics of synthetic biology.
Card and Mobile Game
Mindbytes produces serious games and e-learning applications, and has provided us with advice about our games. They gave us advice on how we can incorporate education in a game because we didn’t want to develop a random game. We wanted to create a game that explains to the broad public what synthetic biology is and what genetic manipulation is all about.
Cartamundi is a world-leading producer of playing cards and card games. They have printed our card game, as well as guide the final steps in the card designing process. For this we have to thank Tom Van Den Berghen and Marco Van Haaften.
Dries Deryckere is a teacher in Kortrijk, at Howest College. He works for the department of Digital Art & Entertainment, he looked at the possibilities to help us with the development of the computer game. He tried to recruit some of his students, so they could finish the game as part of their education.
Professor Jos Vander Sloten en Wim Fyen gave us some advice on how to write a complete business plan, we listened to their opinions and tried to implement it. Thanks to them we could create our complete business model. Next we received input from professor Bart De Moor, an expert in spin-off companies at our university. He helped several companies to start from the bottom, so he has a lot of experience in the development of a perfect business plan. With his help we were able to finish the business model.
In this part of the attributions we would like to take the time to thank all the people who were involved in our iGEM project. It is safe to say that without them the project would have been much more difficult, with their help and consult we were able to go further than we thought. First we would like to thank our sponsors, with their financial and material support we could do everything we wanted to do for the project. Next we would like to thank our 2 PI’s, professor Johan Swinnen and professor Vera Van Noort, for the support during the project. At last we want to thank everyone who was involved in some way: Frank Vanderhoydonc, Ali Talebi, Jelle Verbeeck and Annelies Janssens for the help in the lab. Professor Thomas Voets, professor Chris Ulens and Mieke Nys for the help with the electrophysiology and the use of their equipment. Professor Jeroen Lammertyn, professor Bernard Schneider, professor Adrien Ranga, professor Jennifer Patterson, Dr. Frederik Ceyssens, Dr. Dries Braeken, PhD Jordi Cools and Carl Van Den Bulcke for the help with sensor. Professor Diethard Monbaliu, professor Wim Van Paesschen, professor Chris Bervoets, professor Peter Sinnaeve and professor Filip Bouckaert for their expert opinion and insights in the needs of the medical world for our product. Besides the professors, we would to thank all the patients we talked to, who gave their honest opinions if our product would benefit them. We would like to thank both companies Mindbytes and Cartamundi for their help with our dream to get science closer to the broad public. Professor Jos Vander Sloten, professor Bart De Moor and Wim Fyen for their help with the business plan. Also we would like to thank other professors for their help in the brainstorming sessions and their opinions on our presentation, poster and general work during the project. So thank you to professor Steven Verhelst, professor Rik Gijsbers, professor Geert Bulthynck, professor Joost Schymkowitz, professor Johan Robben and Kasia Malczewska.