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iGEM Manchester - Human Practices

Human Practices

Key Achievements

  • Comprehensively analysed four chemical processes that make L-DOPA and assessed viability of DopaDoser fermentation in terms of wastes and time.
  • Raising awareness regarding synthetic biology and its usage in the field of health care.
  • Establishing a novel approach to Parkinson's treatment inspired by the established Duodopa® therapy
  • Analysed current treatments and assessed how DopaDoser will improve PD patients’ lives.

After performing our hugely rewarding human practices and outreach activities, we can conclude that the theoretical concept of DopaDoser received great approval from experts as well as patients. Due to the daily burden of Parkinson’s patients needing to take current medications like oral Levodopa, the attitude towards new drug developments are very positive. The latest achievement in that field is the introduction of the Duodopa® therapy, an intrajejunal tube which uses Levodopa® gel. This Duodopa® therapy enables the reduction of side effects by directly administering L-DOPA into the jejunum. It also allows a constant level of L-DOPA delivery which negates side effects, such as dyskinesia, that arise from pulsatile dopaminergic stimulation. However it is incredibly expensive and very invasive for the patient.

DopaDoser would have the same advantages as Duodopa®, while being cheaper and less invasive while still providing a constant supply of L-DOPA. Also, minimal renewal of the system is required. For patients with a well-established culture of DopaDoser, it would improve living conditions due to fewer side effects and limited medication complexity. Furthermore, the novel production and delivery method could have certain advantages over existing industrial processes.

Still, some open questions have to be ruled out. There is an issue regarding the ability for cells to reach the correct density in the gut. We considered this and came to the conclusion that DopaDoser would be taken every few days, as opposed to oral L-DOPA which is taken multiple times a day. So while not a one-dose treatment, DopaDoser is certainly an improvement on current methods.

Even though our solution is not ready to be implemented currently, it might be a solution in the future. As well as L-DOPA, treatments for other diseases could also be steadily released in the gut, potentially enabling a more personalised approach to medication delivery. Of course, the implementation of our system would not only be accompanied with further research efforts, but also the legal foundations would have to be adapted. However, we feel our project took the first and most important step. We created awareness and enlightenment when it comes to topics involving synthetic biology. We also received positive responses from patients, experts and the general public, concerning the use of genetically engineered bacteria as medication systems. This gained attitude is one step towards the design of a new field of medical applications for people in the future.