Team:Aberdeen Scotland/Ethics/Introspection

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<li class="curr"><a class="curr" href="http://2014.igem.org/Team:Aberdeen_Scotland/Ethics/Introspection">Introspection</a></li>
<li class="curr"><a class="curr" href="http://2014.igem.org/Team:Aberdeen_Scotland/Ethics/Introspection">Introspection</a></li>
<li><a href="http://2014.igem.org/Team:Aberdeen_Scotland/Ethics/Social">Social</a></li>
<li><a href="http://2014.igem.org/Team:Aberdeen_Scotland/Ethics/Social">Social</a></li>
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<li><a href="http://2014.igem.org/Team:Aberdeen_Scotland/DNA">DNA App</a></li>
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<h3>Our part in helping to develop Scottish national science policy in the area of synthetic biology</h3>
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<h3>Our Simplest Guidelines for Safe Work and Ethical Practices, if you plan on working on real parasites!</h3>
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<p>The Aberdeen team was fortunate to be able to accept an invitation to an event on 16th October organised by the Chief Scientific Advisor of Scotland, Prof Muffy
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<h4>Investigating samples from patients</h4>
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Calder. Prof. Calder is a Scottish government-appointed scientist whose role is to advise the Scottish government on science issues as they impact on government
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<p>As every enthusiastic scientist, since we started working on Human African Trypanosomiasis, we wanted to reach the stage where we could test blood human samples with our integrated system, to investigate its efficiency and specificity in real patients. Therefore, we started contacting experts in the field, to understand more about possible problems and to seek advice. From that perspective, World Health Organization has been one of our biggest targets. After more research, we found out that WHO targeted HAT elimination as a public health problem by 2020. Also, in 2013 WHO and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation signed an agreement to support innovative strategies to eliminate the disease. To support that, they set up a specimen bank containing blood, serum, cerebrospinal fluid, saliva and urine from affected and unaffected people from endemic countries from Africa.</p>
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policy.</p>
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<p>Prof. Calder co-chairs the <a href="http://www.scottishscience.org.uk/">Scottish Scientific Advisory Council (SSAC)</a>, an government body providing scientific
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<h4>Acting upon it!</h4>
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advice to government, and currently engaged with producing a report on the future development of synthetic biology as a tool for biotechnology in Scotland. We, the
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<p>We completed a <a href="http://2014.igem.org/wiki/images/d/db/WHO_linked.pdf">form</a> to submit it to the organization. However, our naïve expectations were soon faced with reality after consulting our idea with one of the supervisors, Dr Berndt Muller, who further evaluated it with Aberdeen University Safety Committee. Unfortunately, we did not have the necessary training or the vaccinations required to work with real antigens. Even more, that could have exposed us to risk of infections, had we not checked it with qualified personnel before.</p>
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Aberdeen iGEM team were invited to the launch event for the SSAC Report on Synthetic biology: opportunities for Scotland, where we were asked to present a poster on
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our iGEM project to evidence the development of synthetic biology in Scotland. We had the opportunity to speak to a number of key figures in this area, including
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Prof Calder, and Prof. Nigel Brown, President of the Society for General Microbiology and co-author of the report. We considered that we had contributed in some
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small way to the development of synthetic biology policy, and were participants in the process of development of national science policy in this area. We regarded
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ourselves as privileged to see how national science policies, including those on synthetic biology are developed in our country, as well as to be able to speak to
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Scottish policy makers at the event.</p>
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<p>The Scottish SSAC report on Synthetic biology: opportunities for Scotland: A report by the Scottish Science Advisory Council will be published on 17th September
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<h4>Different approach</h4>
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2014.</p>
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<p>Even though we felt disappointed, this experience taught us that ethical and safety issues are the basis of any scientific project and only by addressing those issues first, you can then be free to tackle the real scientific challenges. Our different approach was to design the project in the direction of a proof-of-concept idea and to find different ways through which we could get our project to the stage of a more real-life based assay and characterisation. Therfore, we did more literature research and contacted immediately two experts in the field of Human African Trypanosomiasis, Dr. Philippe Büscher, Head of the Unit of Parasite Diagnostics at Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp and Liesbeth Van Nieuwenhove, PhD Biology & Veterinarian.  After explaining our project to them, we kindly asked them if they could provide us with antibodies against the most common trypanosomal antigens, VSG 1.3 and 1.5. They have been extremely understanding and helpful and they even sent more samples that we asked for, to allow us to test our novel trypanosomal detector. Thank you!</p>
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<p>Unfortunately, 10 weeks did not allow us to test those tryapanosomal antibodies, as we wanted. Frustrating enough, we have both the mimotopes for trypanosomes and the antibodies provided in the -80°C freezer, waiting for a future Aberdeen Team to be tested.</p>
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<div class="float"><a href="http://www.scottishscience.org.uk/"><img src="http://2014.igem.org/wiki/images/9/90/SSAClogo.png"></a></div>
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<h4>Influence on our project and advice for other iGEM teams</h4>
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<p>We realized that our initial, enthusiastic plan of working with real trypanosome pathogens in the laboratory was not achievable, but we could say that it helped us develop a novel approach to tackle the same problem without any safety and ethical concern, by getting in contact with researchers that work on the disease, who are more than keen to offer help to undergraduates.</p>
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<h4>iGEM Aberdeen: public outreach and science communication</h4>
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<p>Moreover, we realized that people’s fear for synthetic biology and genetic engineering sometimes expands beyond boundaries. Mass populations fear the evolvement of deadly viruses and random cloning, due to poor understanding of synthetic biology and scientific achievements. Therefore, we aimed to educate the public and we targeted different audiences:  general public-short radio interview; more specialized public-publishing Blogposts on the Aberdeen University magazine website and giving a short presentation for the Explorathon European Researchers’ Night. Moreover, we presented our project both at the beginning and the end of the summer, by going to the iGEM Scottish Team Meeting and Synthetic Biology Conference in Edinburgh, respectively to Professor Muffy Calder, Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland, at The Royal Society of Edinburgh. We also created an interactive DNA translating device, which could be used by a 10 year-old and we used social media (Facebook, Twitter and Goggle+ account) to advertise our project, iGEM  and synthetic biology.</p>
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<p>The Aberdeen team used a number of outreach opportunities to engage with non-scientists and the general public. Each provided the opportunity to engage with a lay
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audience, and find out what the public thinks of the science of synthetic biology. We discussed our science and presented at the following events.</p>
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<p><b>SHMU Radio, Aberdeen:</b> our team was interviewed on the SHMU local radio station for 20 minutes on the Talking Science show, giving us the chance to
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<p>We encourage further iGEM teams to never give up on their project idea, because there are always safe and novel ways through which they can address it. Where there is a will, there is a way!</p>
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communicate our project, and the concept of synthetic biology, to an audience in the Aberdeen city area.</p>
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<p><b>Explorathon 2014:</b> this annual European event is a vast science public outreach event giving researchers from across Europe the chance to showcase their
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science to a general public audience. On <a href="http://www.explorathon.co.uk/aberdeen">Explorathon day</a> (26th September 2014), our contribution was present to
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an open audience in a quick-fire Pecha Kucha event (20 slides, 20 seconds each) held in the Belmont cinema in Aberdeen city centre. This open event was attended by a
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large number of members of the public, followed by a Q&A session.</p>
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<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/3qMgndUmz_Q" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
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<p><b>iGEM project blog with <a href="http://www.aumag.co.uk/">AU Magazine</a>:</b> our team had a great opportunity to engage with non-scientists through a 3-part
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blog we produced in the Aberdeen University science magazine 'Au'. This magazine is written for a non-scientific audience, providing an important outreach
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opportunity.</p>
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<h5>Our goal for publishing a series of articles was to:</h5>
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<ul>
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<li>
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<ul style="list-style-type:disc">
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<li>Address the general public's misconceptions surrounding synthetic biology</li>
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<li>Popularise SynBio</li>
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<li>Get people thinking about how synthetic biology can provide solutions to serious global issues we face nowadays</li>
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<li>To start a discussion about the ethical implication of our actions; Our moral responsibility to use knowledge to do good, as well as looking at the
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sustainability of synthetic biology in the future</li>
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<li>To popularize iGEM</li>
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<li>To inspire readers of the magazine (fellow students) and show that young people can make a positive contribution and tackle global problems</li>
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</ul>
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</li>
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</ul>
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<h4>To date we have published 2 articles:</h4>
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<ul>
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<li>
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<h5><b><a href="http://2014.igem.org/wiki/images/9/9e/A_Young_Physicist.pdf">A Young Physicist’s perspective on Synthetic Biology</a></b>, in which we
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addressed the following:</h5>
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<ul>
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<li>- What is iGEM</li>
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<li>- What is synthetic biology, emphasizing its interdisciplinary aspect and debunking myths surrounding 'the Frankenstein's biology'</li>
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<li>- Why are physicists involved in biology projects? How the modelling can guide informed design of biological research</li>
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<li>- The unlimited potential of synbio and how we implement it in everyday life</li>
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<li>- The risks and ethical implications connected with irresponsible applications of synbio, and how it is tackled by laws and regulations</li>
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</ul>
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</li>
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<li>
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<h5><a href="http://2014.igem.org/wiki/images/a/a4/IGEM-Blogpost_2.pdf"><b>Wake up to the sleeping sickness!</b></a>, our grand plan to engineer an E. coli
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System for the diagnosis of neglected tropical diseases:</h5>
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<ul>
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<li>- What is Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT)</li>
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<li>- The burden of the disease</li>
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<li>- Difficulties with diagnosing HAT</li>
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<li>- How to engineer a diagnostic system adapted to function effectively in remote parts of Africa and how synthetic biology enables us to do so</li>
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<li>- The solution - our E.coli operated diagnosis system and a HAT detector device</li>
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<li>- The positive impact of our project</li>
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</ul>
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</li>
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</ul>
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<p>Our third article about the Giant iGEM Jamboree and an exchange of ideas within an international scientific community will be published in mid-November. We will
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emphasize the international aspect of the competition and how all teams work together to perform high quality, safe science.</p>
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<h4>Interactions with the Scottish Health Service</h4>
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<p>In addition to the above outreach, as part of the project planning we also contacted a nearby National Health Service lab (Ms Leslie Bevridge, Grampian health
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authority Microbiology pathology lab) to identify possible disease targets for a new diagnosis tool. While we eventually settled on tropical disease diagnosis in
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remote areas we were still periodically in contact throughout the project, often regarding our weekly progress.</p>
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Latest revision as of 01:48, 18 October 2014

Team:Aberdeen Scotland - 2014.ogem.org



Our Simplest Guidelines for Safe Work and Ethical Practices, if you plan on working on real parasites!


Investigating samples from patients

As every enthusiastic scientist, since we started working on Human African Trypanosomiasis, we wanted to reach the stage where we could test blood human samples with our integrated system, to investigate its efficiency and specificity in real patients. Therefore, we started contacting experts in the field, to understand more about possible problems and to seek advice. From that perspective, World Health Organization has been one of our biggest targets. After more research, we found out that WHO targeted HAT elimination as a public health problem by 2020. Also, in 2013 WHO and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation signed an agreement to support innovative strategies to eliminate the disease. To support that, they set up a specimen bank containing blood, serum, cerebrospinal fluid, saliva and urine from affected and unaffected people from endemic countries from Africa.

Acting upon it!

We completed a form to submit it to the organization. However, our naïve expectations were soon faced with reality after consulting our idea with one of the supervisors, Dr Berndt Muller, who further evaluated it with Aberdeen University Safety Committee. Unfortunately, we did not have the necessary training or the vaccinations required to work with real antigens. Even more, that could have exposed us to risk of infections, had we not checked it with qualified personnel before.

Different approach

Even though we felt disappointed, this experience taught us that ethical and safety issues are the basis of any scientific project and only by addressing those issues first, you can then be free to tackle the real scientific challenges. Our different approach was to design the project in the direction of a proof-of-concept idea and to find different ways through which we could get our project to the stage of a more real-life based assay and characterisation. Therfore, we did more literature research and contacted immediately two experts in the field of Human African Trypanosomiasis, Dr. Philippe Büscher, Head of the Unit of Parasite Diagnostics at Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp and Liesbeth Van Nieuwenhove, PhD Biology & Veterinarian. After explaining our project to them, we kindly asked them if they could provide us with antibodies against the most common trypanosomal antigens, VSG 1.3 and 1.5. They have been extremely understanding and helpful and they even sent more samples that we asked for, to allow us to test our novel trypanosomal detector. Thank you!

Unfortunately, 10 weeks did not allow us to test those tryapanosomal antibodies, as we wanted. Frustrating enough, we have both the mimotopes for trypanosomes and the antibodies provided in the -80°C freezer, waiting for a future Aberdeen Team to be tested.

Influence on our project and advice for other iGEM teams

We realized that our initial, enthusiastic plan of working with real trypanosome pathogens in the laboratory was not achievable, but we could say that it helped us develop a novel approach to tackle the same problem without any safety and ethical concern, by getting in contact with researchers that work on the disease, who are more than keen to offer help to undergraduates.

Moreover, we realized that people’s fear for synthetic biology and genetic engineering sometimes expands beyond boundaries. Mass populations fear the evolvement of deadly viruses and random cloning, due to poor understanding of synthetic biology and scientific achievements. Therefore, we aimed to educate the public and we targeted different audiences: general public-short radio interview; more specialized public-publishing Blogposts on the Aberdeen University magazine website and giving a short presentation for the Explorathon European Researchers’ Night. Moreover, we presented our project both at the beginning and the end of the summer, by going to the iGEM Scottish Team Meeting and Synthetic Biology Conference in Edinburgh, respectively to Professor Muffy Calder, Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland, at The Royal Society of Edinburgh. We also created an interactive DNA translating device, which could be used by a 10 year-old and we used social media (Facebook, Twitter and Goggle+ account) to advertise our project, iGEM and synthetic biology.

We encourage further iGEM teams to never give up on their project idea, because there are always safe and novel ways through which they can address it. Where there is a will, there is a way!