Students developing genetically modified bacteria to help combat muscle fatigue

Posted by ap507 at Jul 23, 2015 11:43 AM |
University of Leicester students are fundraising for their entry into the international iGEM competition

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 23 July 2015

A team of student biological scientists at the University of Leicester are developing a proposal for a genetically modified bacterium that will help give longer life to muscle tissue.

The second-year students are taking part in the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM), in which they are required to modify bacteria to fulfil a useful task. They will be conducting experiments in the School of Biological Sciences labs over the summer before travelling to the Giant Jamboree in Boston, in the USA, to present their project to competing teams from around the world.

The team is currently raising funds to support their efforts, including a sponsored walk from Market Harborough to Leicester on 24 July. The students are encouraging public support and have set up a fundraising webpage at http://www.gofundme.com/LeicesteriGEM

The project that the University of Leicester iGEM team is working on has two aspects. The first is to generate genetically modified bacteria that can colonise the human gut by binding to surface proteins that are expressed by bacteria already present in the gut. This will mean that they will not disrupt the bacteria already there and should not produce any unintended side effects.

The second aspect is to introduce the gene for production of NMNAT, an enzyme involved in the production of NAD+. Previous research has shown that this should help with muscle fatigue (a problem which can affect everyone as they grow older) and is particularly acute in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Using the bacteria as a delivery system in this way should increase the concentration of NAD+ in the body.

Their aim is to show through laboratory experiments that the bacteria can colonise by binding to surface proteins, and express the NMNAT gene to increase the amount of NAD+.

Team member Amy Evans said: “It was a great opportunity, not only to get some summer lab experience, but also to develop our ideas and work as a team in raising awareness and funds for the project. The fact that the project idea that we have come up with could have major implications in the field of medicine is extremely exciting.

“I hope that we can start something which can be further developed by future iGEM teams from the University of Leicester or other universities.”

Project supervisors Dr Richard Badge and Prof Raymond Dalgleish said: “The iGEM project is an incredibly valuable opportunity for the students to learn first-hand about how laboratory science is conducted. Not only do they learn basic practical skills but they also gain a deeper appreciation of the issues related to designing and conducting a viable project in a relatively limited time-frame.”

The students’ sponsored walk takes place on 24 July, where the team will be walking from Market Harborough to Leicester, and if they raise £50 each they will dress as bacteria. You can support them at http://www.gofundme.com/LeicesteriGEM

You can also submit your thoughts on the students’ idea as part of the competition here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/8P6NJRM

Follow their progress on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/LeicesteriGEM2015 ) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/iGEMLeicester ).

You can learn more about the iGEM competition at http://2015.igem.org/Main_Page

Ends

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Amy Evans at ae157@student.le.ac.uk

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