This year Peking iGEM Team is trying to develop a brand new method for the detection of pathogenic microorganism. Particularly, we expect this method to be applied to the diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis as a proof of principle. To see whether our lab achievements can be really helpful to the clinical practice or not, in our human practice we paid the most attention to the clinical requirements for TB detection and the potential issues in economic and ethic perspectives. Additionally, education for both children and adults about the tuberculosis and synthetic biology was another important part. Overall, by the basic ideas of translational medicine, we have successfully set up a bridge between our technological advance and the clinical practices.
Actions and Achievements
- Investigations on the current epidemic situation of TB
- We first interviewed several representative clinicians from famous research institutes and primary hospitals, as well as the researchers of Beijing Research Institute for TB Control. Through the interviews, we understand the epidemic situation of TB nowadays (especially in China), the most widely used diagnostic techniques, and their clinical applications. We then visited the central laboratory of Beijing Research Institute for TB Control (BRITC) and discussed our proposal with the clinical researchers to obtain valuable suggestions.
- Questionnaire survey
- We learnt that the low awareness of TB is one of the main causes of high TB burden in China. On the other hand, a lack of public understanding of synthetic biology will be an obstacle for us to promote its application to clinical practices. Therefore, we investigated common people about their awareness of TB and synthetic biology.
- Knowledge popularization of TB and synthetic biology
- Questionnaire survey showed that most people don’t know much about either TB or synthetic biology, which reminds us of the urgency to disseminate the knowledge of them. Therefore, we set out to disseminate the knowledge to both adults and school students. Various approaches were taken, including handing out pamphlet, giving lectures, and hosting the student visit to iGEM lab.
- Ethics discussion with the bioethicist
- We first discussed with Doctor Xie Guangkuan, a researcher from the Institute of Medical Humanities of Peking University, about the ethical issues of synthetic biology, especially about our project. Then, a comprehensive assessment on the ethical problems of our project was performed after the discussion.
- Economic assessment of our device
- In our project a device for TB diagnosis was manufactured. Therefore, an economic assessment of the device was first performed. Then we interviewed clinical doctors, laboratory workers, and patients for investigating the market demand. This has guided our project toward a more practical direction.