To prove the importance and demand of our project, we started an online survey. We sent it to the other iGEM teams and published it on our social media pages. Around 60 users have contributed by answering questions about their lab working habits and TALEs. The first diagram (figure1) shows general user characteristics. The results show us that most users are from the field of biology (55%) and engineering (15%). Only a small number of people come from chemistry, physics, medicine or IT. We can also see (figure2) that 56% are working with bacteria, 13% with human cells, 10% plant cells while the rest work with animal cells, fungi, viruses or phages.
Figure 3 shows you that most people have not used TALEs already. (figure3) The main reason is because they don’t know how to handle them or have no knowledge about the function and design of these special proteins. Other reasons are that TALE’s are not established in their research group or they don’t have the necessary equipment. If they are already using different methods than TALEs to edit genomes, they mentioned CRISPR/Cas9.
In the second part of the survey, we asked participants about the different operation fields and criteria of proteins for a good lab work. (figure4) The average answers are that the detection, modification and purification of DNA are all very important but the main point is the modification of DNA. (figure5) If we compare the four criteria- stability, easy handling, specificity and isolation- for the work with proteins, we can see that stability and specificity are the most important ones.
The outcome of this survey is that with our project we could solve a big problem. Normally, the more specific a protein is the less stable it is however through the stabilization of TALE’s we can have both. The users saw this as well and, the majority said they would work with TALE’s if they would be more stable and usable for in vitro experiences.
Because this survey also really helped us to improve our project and step forward, we see the necessity of communication between scientist and iGEM teams. Therefore, we also helped the iGEM teams from Aachen, Göttingen, Bonn, Hust-China and Bourdeaux, by answering their surveys.
Figure 4: Importance of operation fields from 1(very important) to 5 (not important)
Figure 5: Criteria for the work with proteins from 1 (very important) to 5 (not important)