Team:Bordeaux/Integrated Practices

Sleep with EpiC elegans

What causes sleep disorders ?

Our main problematic concerns the sleeping troubles. The project Sleep with EpiC elegans tried to propose another solution to treat these disorders instead of use medications. In this part, we decided to be interested in the potential causes of sleep disorders by creating two forms that we diffused on streets and internet. We also considered the non-medication alternatives helping to decrease sleeping troubles. Finally, we also want to know the difficulties for people suffering from sleep disorders and we sucessed to have some interviews of them.

Street Interviews & Surveys broadcast by social networks

In order to make people know about our iGEM project, we have created two surveys which were carried out with the aim to:

  • learn more about what non scientist people think about synthetic biology
  • know their opinion about drugs created with this technique
  • know if they were aware about sleep disorders.

Our first study: How sleep people?

In the first survey, 279 answers were obtained thanks to social networks and street interviews. Most of them are french student (69,1 %).

Can you easily sleep during the week or the week-end?

69.5% people from our survey get easily to sleep whether it is during the week or the weekend. When they have sleep troubles, only 5% use sleeping pills. When we did our street interviews, many people said that they prefer to avoid drugs for sleeping because they don’t like their side effects.

1. How often do you awake in a night?

66% sleep on average 6-9 hours. Among them, 65% feel tired during the day and in 52% it leads to trouble for staying awake. Moreover, people prefer to consume stimulants such as coffee or tea for half of them, rather than taking a moment to have a nap, even occasionally for a third. And this, despite the fact that these sleep disorders representing 16 %, have an impact on their mood in half of the cases.

Duration of sleep for our panel

2. About synthetic biology

Do you know synthetic biology?

Synthetic biology is an unknown word for the majority of interviewee (62%). Most of people don’t found it is dangerous for health (64%) or more dangerous than drugs created by chemistry (91%). However, there is reluctance at the idea of taking synthetic biology drugs for 58 % of interviewed people.

In conclusion: This first survey was interesting to know if our project could be useful for people. Even if people of our survey didn't suffer from chronic sleep disorders, it is important to know how they feel about our initiative. Moreover, we can determine if people know synthetic biology in order to give them more explanations.

Our second study: What cause sleep troubles ?

In the second survey, 115 answers were obtained and only through social networks. Once again most of interviewed people are students.

1. Sleep disorders and stress

We would like to know if stress may impact sleep. Most of people (55.8%) declare to have problems to get sleeping. If they answered yes, they mostly explain it is by stress and anxiety (42%). Indeed, 77,9 % of interviewed people proclaim being often stressed. Furthermore 89,8 % of them think that their stress has an impact on their sleep.

Questions on sleep and stress

2. What are the cause of their stress

When we asked them what the causes of this anxiety, 77 % of interviewee proclaims that it is linked to their studies or their jobs. Moreover, 11 % use sport to help them to distress in the evening while half try to relax in order to sleep. To relax they read books, practice relaxation, breathing exercises or even use alternative medicine such as essential oils.

3. Activities used for helping to sleep

Alternatives therapies for helping to sleep

We proposed to people several activities to know if they have already tried it in order to sleep better.
63 % answer they do nothing, 13,7 % aromatherapy, 6,3% Yoga, 5,3% Sophrology, 5,3% Osteopathy, 3,2% sleep medicine, 1,1 % Hypnosis.

4. About our project

In the final questions of our survey, we decided to present our iGEM project and we want to know if people are interested to use our treatment if they have sleep troubles.
We saw that almost half percent of people are agree to use it and the other half are against this treatment.

  • For those in favor for this project, 47.5% say they will use our treatment because it is a natural molecule found in human and it's a great idea. 15% will use this to replace sleeping pills, 15% will use this as a trail, 22.5% will use this to improve their sleep.
  • For those against this project, 60,4% will not use our treatment because it's a drug, 20,8% are afraid of side effects, 18,8%for others reasons.
In conclusion: This second survey made us realize that sleep troubles are mainly induced by stress. Lifestyle influenced our way to sleep and each people has his own way to manage their sleep troubles. Our panel had not a relevant position concerning our project. Both side has his own arguments to use or not our treatment.

In conlusion

Our survey was very instructive, but it was skewed because many students answered to our surveys, so our panel was too specific. In majority, they declared issues to get to sleep because of stress. It is mainly linked to their jobs or studies. In majority, they resort to relaxation or even alternative medicines to help them to sleep. Moreover, most of them ignore what synthetic biology means. When we give them information about our project and the drug it could lead to, they seems really interested. Nevertheless, opinions are divided when we ask them if they were ready to take our treatment...

iGEM Bordeaux tried for you ...


Since we were working on sleep, we have been also interested in non-medicinal means to solve sleep disorders. After some investigations, we met professionals that work everyday on the human body and sometimes their own body. That work is known as an efficient way to find a solution against sleep difficulties.

First, we had the opportunity to attend a yoga session with Patrick Boulon as the leader. We learnt a different way to breathe called « fire breath » used jointly with movements and postures related to a specific type of yoga called Kounda-lini (“royal yoga”). During this session, we were invited to do some meditation with songs called Mantra originally from India. It seems that yoga is beneficial against sleep disorders as long as the daily pressure causes them. The energy that is released when we combine a posture of tension with a strong breath help to evacuate the stress. We had a very good time trying out something different as it was our first time.
With the yoga session, we discovered a way to relax by working on our own body. But some professionals also use to work on the body of someone else in order to find the origin of pain or tension.

We also had the opportunity to interview a chiropractor, Pierre Henri Champaud, and a student in osteopathy, Anouk Antrig. Both practice a very manual work on the body.


As a chiropractor, Pierre Henri Champaud tries to relieve his patients by focusing on the nervous system. He works on articulations to release the nervous system from interferences. Sometimes, an articulation with reduced mobility can lead to repercussions on muscles or organs related to spinal column. This way, a chiropractor focuses on very functional aspects and he manages to solve many problems related to stresses such as physical stress, chemical stress or emotional stress. When he has released patients from their stress, he has helped them to sleep better since sleep is related to physical and emotional health.


While Pierre Henri Champaud concentrate on the spinal column, Anouk Antrig tries to work on the whole body with osteopathy. She is looking for the physical and emotional well being of the body. According to her, sometimes a dysfunction appears in a precise spot, however the patient feels a pain in another part of the body. As an osteopath, her role is to find the origin of this pain to relieve the patient. Usually, Anouk can meet people suffering from a deterioration of sleep due to the growing pain. As she relieves them from the pain, they can sleep better again. Emilie tried for you some exercises of osteopathy. After 20 minutes, all her body worked, so she felt sleepy.

In conlusion

So according to these professionals, people have in general problems to sleep because of the pression they experience everyday. This stress can be relieved thanks if the person or the patient trust them and communicate freely about his problems. However, there are sleep diseases that cannot be healed even with non medical care. These professions can only help to alleviate the discomfort of the disease and to improve the daily life.

Talking about sleep disorders with patients

As part of its project “Sleep with C elegans” the iGEM Bordeaux 2016 team carried out several interviews. The people interviewed suffer from minor or major sleep disorders. We were interested in their pathology, the causes and the medical consequences on their health. This constitutes the factual and scientific aspect of this disease: it is what motivates pharmaceutical industries to produce drugs, what motivates researchers to solve the mysteries of mechanisms leading to sleep disorders and what motivates the iGEM Bordeaux 2016 team to develop a treatment thanks to synthetic biology, that would be an alternative to a chemical treatment.
However, we were especially curious about the daily life of these people. We were interested in what they felt and about the impacts of sleep disorders on their routine. We explained our project and the benefits of synthetic biology in the development of treatments for sleep disorders. They gave us their opinion on the question.
Here under, you will find several testimonies. All the people interviewed have authorized the use of the information collected during an interview as part of our project. The text might have been modified in order to preserve the person's intimacy or for confidentiality reasons.

Click there to read the interview