As a diverse team, we see iGEM as a chance for different mindsets to gather, learn and discuss the future of synthetic biology. Genetic engineering is a complex topic, especially when it comes to discussions about the future.
Indeed, having design, biotechnology and medical students working together on a project idea was a very challenging experience. However, the cross-disciplinary work not only broadened our horizon and our imagination but also enabled us to imagine several scenarios for medication in the near and far future. With our future video, we let our imagination run wild as we tried to picture what our project could look like in the future.

Envisioning to create a lung probiotic by exploring the lung microbiome potential, we challenge the conventional treatments by addressing the thick mucus and its symptoms. The inherent ability of bacteria to constantly communicate with each other and their environment by using volatile compounds lifts the potential of our new treatment approach to another level (Hennig et al., 2015). Thinking of hijacking their communication system to our advantage, we could revolutionize current medications. Putting two bacteria - one on the inside and one on the outside of the body - in close surrounding, would enable them to exchange information with every breath. Thus, objects in daily use could be turned into empathic medication and simultaneously stay in contact with our lungs.

Empathic medication means that we can turn medication into personalised systems that react to our individual needs. Furthermore, we could remodel an everyday item, such as a pillow, into a protective and caring device that constantly monitors our health state. This would be made possible by bacteria which are constantly monitoring us and the environment, responding to potential changes (Chen et al., 2015). Assuming a patient has a respiratory disease, the bacteria on the pillow would sense malfunctioning airways, and thus initiate the treatment even before the symptoms wake the patient up. We imagine that this system could find a much wider application than just in lung diseases. But at the same time, thinking of medical treatments as autonomous systems sounds incredible and scary.

Biotechnology is one of the fastest growing technology sectors and has the potential power to revolutionise medicine, to replace our fossil fuels and to touch any aspect of our daily lives. The possibilities of this new technology are endless; so is the human imagination.

Besides all the game-changing and magnificent aspects of new developments, we need to bear possible consequences of misuse in mind. In the context of our project, we faced concerns regarding how far should the limits of medication be pushed and whether humankind wants or should be immortal. Thus, we have to ask ourselves the inevitable question - how far could we, but more importantly, how far should we go.

Song: Marly (part 6) by Lost Radiance


Chen Y., Gozzi K. and Chai Y. (2015) A bacterial volatile signal for biofilm formation, 2(10): 406–408.
Hennig S., Rödel G. and Ostermann K. (2015) Artificial cell-cell communication as an emerging tool in synthetic biology applications, 9: 13.