Type II Diabetes Mellitus therapy - Human Practice

“Human Practices is the study of how your work affects the world, and how the world affects your work.” - Peter Carr, Director of Judging iGEM

Sustainable Development Goals

Together with iGEM Costa Rica, we, iGEM Tübingen want to promote the UN Sustainable Development Goals. More information can be found here:

Sustainable Development Goals

In 2014, there were 422 Million adults with a diagnosed Diabetes Mellitus worldwide, an alarmingly high number, which inspired us to look into treatment strategies of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus patients, who make up the largest group of Diabetes patients. There are currently many options available, however all of these treatments require the patient to actively participate and comply to his or her therapy scheme. As compliance and persistence are key factors for therapeutic success, we, the iGEM Team Tübingen, want to revolutionize the treatment and its administration by using Synthetic Biology.

Our solution is a probiotic bacterium, that synthesises a drug when it is needed and therefore lifts the burden of application from the patient. Thus, while checking the scientific possibilities to produce such a therapeutic probiotic, we soon realized that we would have to engage the public with the goal of designing a product, which meets the requirements for a successful treatment.

Therefore, we divided our Human Practices project into four phases:

Phase I: General Considerations
Phase II: Human Practice Events of the iGEM Team Tübingen
Phase III: Implementing new strategies based on our public integration and outreach
Phase IV: Conclusion and Reflection

To start with human practice work, we started with identifying all stakeholders. In our case, the obvious group are patients with Type II Diabetes Mellitus, whom we want to help gain quality of life through our project. Also, we want to make sure, whether they would be discouraged by the usage of a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism).

Secondly, the scientific community, including ourselves, are stakeholders. Since every new scientific project has an impact for the whole scientific community, we have the responsibility to make sure that our project will in no way compromise the reputation of the scientific community.

Education, of ourselves and others, would need to be a big factor within our project, as well. Especially, the relevance and usefulness of Synthetic Biology in new therapy strategies and the intensified education about Diabetes Mellitus and obesity, are important to us.

Another important stakeholder to our project is the civil society, which will react to a new therapeutic tool, especially since it is a GMO. As the potential release of a GMO is of concern for all people, information must be given to the public about the safety issues a project like ours might pose and how we plan on making sure, that theses issues will never become reality.

Lastly, the pharmaceutical industry and insurance companies are stakeholders in our project, since we are making changes to therapeutic concepts and may develop our project further into a business, which would introduce new challenges like production and scale-up, corporate responsibilities, economic viability and cooperation with different pharmaceutical companies.

Next to the identification of the stakeholders, there are many important factors that need to be taken into account during our human practice work.

First of all, this includes Biosafety. Our probiotic will consist of a genetically modified organism, which poses the risk of being released, as it would be administered orally and therefore would also be excreted. That’s why we will include a so-called kill switch, which will induce the killing and degradation of genetic information of our probiotic bacteria, as soon as they leave the human body and the conditions, which are naturally given within the intestines. Also, our team will have sufficient safety introductions, which allow us to work in the lab.

On top of that, regulatory and legal aspects have to be considered. Hence, our work will in every case be in accordance with the German Law, such as the Gentechnikgesetz (Genetic Engineering Law), the Infektionsschutzgesetz (Infection Protection Law), the Gentechniksicherheitsverordnung (German Statutory Regulation on the Safety of Genetic Engineering) and others, which apply.

Lastly, we will make sure to ethically discuss our project at any stage and consider its social impact. As soon as GMOs are used in a way that has impact on the public, which is the case when a GMO leaves its laboratory environment, a discussion must take place. In order to gain access to a public dialogue, which gives us the opportunity to catch the general notion about GMOs and may allow further development of our project, we will organize multiple events where open science and free discussion would be welcome. Additionally, we will talk to experts and different stakeholders, integrate concerns and ideas and look into strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Diabetes Prevention

Together with the group of Prof. Dr. Eicke Latz and iGEM Dresden, we, iGEM Tübingen want to educate about health and diet in the context of diabetes. More information can be found here:

Diabetes Prevention

Survey about the Diabetes Mellitus Therapy

For our human practice work, we want to conduct the following survey to gather information about general knowledge and options about Diabetes Mellitus, its therapy and how Synthetic Biology may play a role in the future. This is very important to our project, since it will help us refine our human practice work, educational approach and help us assess the perception of our therapy strategy.

To design our survey, we wanted to fulfill the criteria proposed by iGEM. Hence, informed consent and privacy/ data protection are highly important to us. Also, our survey design aims to be specific and unambiguous, with the goal of not compromising our survey by insinuating a “correct” response to any question. The participation is voluntary and will be open to any interested person.

Once we have gathered enough information, we will analyze and evaluate our results and hope to draw conclusions for our project.

Synthetic biology software - iGEM Tübingen

Bioinformatics software

Throughout our participations in iGEM several software tools have been developed. Read more about them and find download instructions here.

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iGEM Tübingen - Gallery

iGEM Tübingen - Gallery

A gallery of our various iGEM teams, presentations and awesome projects.

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