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Attributions: Kathryn Brink, Alexa Garcia

Alzheimer's is a severe disease with limited diagnosis and treatment options. The application of synthetic biology to disease research, is an emerging strategy, and it allows for the development of dynamic, specific and effective therapeutics. By tackling Alzheimer's disease within the framework of synthetic biology, our project has potential implications for both the scientific and medical communities,
as well as the general public.

MIT iGEM 2014 project “The Diagnosis and Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease”

At first, we were motivated by a general understanding of the severity of Alzheimer’s disease. We knew that it was a prominent problem without many treatment options. We found a deeper understanding and appreciation in the statistics and testimonials of Alzheimer’s patients and their families.

The 6th leading cause of death in the US, this disease affects nearly 30 million patients and caretakers worldwide. Alzheimer’s was more serious that any of us had originally believed - if we could successfully “cure” this affliction, we could positively impact the lives of millions of people around the world.

And so we started where any good scientist would - with the work of others. We looked into numerous papers, publications and current research projects, searching for information on how to tackle this disease, and hoping to improve our knowledge and understanding of the current state of the art.

We then sought out professionals in the field, to further improve our understanding of the current tactics and ideas used in Alzheimer's research. We contacted several scientists and doctors, two of whom we interviewed in person (see Interviews) and inquired about the currents needs of researchers, doctors and patients who deal with Alzheimer’s disease. The insight we obtained led us to the decision to address the most prominent limitations in the fight against Alzheimer’s: the inability to properly diagnose and treat the disease.

Throughout the course of this project, each of us has become closer to the cause - iGEM became more than a competition and our project was more than a task. Through iGEM, we were able to use the tools of synthetic biology to address a severe affliction, and to create a system that has the potential to be meaningful to both the scientific community and the general public as a whole. We were driven by a desire to successfully complete our project, and produce a fully characterized and functional system, for the sake of its implications for the future and the lives of many.

Although the competition is over, we hope that our work can be used to advance the field of Alzheimer’s research. We hope that we might have made something that could impact the lives of Alzheimer’s sufferers and their families sometime in the future. It was this hope that kept us motivated throughout our research journey, and it is this hope that we wish to share with you and many others, that one day, we may all see a world free from the pain of Alzheimer’s disease.