Team:Lethbridge HS/HP/Gold

Lethbridge HS iGEM 2016



This year, a major aspect of our human practices were the interviews that were conducted by members of our team. We had the chance to interview Dr. Ed Pryzdial, who is a scientist from the Canadian Blood Services, Dr. Bruce Ritchie from the hematology department from the University of Alberta, as well as an expert from St. John’s Ambulance. All three of these interviews provided vital feedback that directly affected our course of thinking for the design of our product.

Canadian Blood Services

We were able to get in touch with Dr. Ed Pryzdial, a scientist with Canadian Blood Services and the Associate Director for the Centre for Blood Research at the University of British Columbia. Aside from his work with Canadian Blood Services, some of his specializations are in coagulation and blood proteins. His knowledge would provide us with insight into any potential problems we might run into. We received comments about the design of our construct from him. He told us that using the whole fibrinogen molecule would result in issues when it is used in combination with the snake venom component due to the size differences between the two. This input lead us to find a small, four amino acid fibrin peptide chain to combat this problem. He also gave us comments about the safety of our system. He thought it might be interesting if we tried to engineer our protein, Cerastocytin, to turn it off. He thought that a solid matrix might be useful to prevent diffusion of the venom outside of the wound. Like Dr. Ritchie, he commented that creating a fusion protein with human and snake components might result in an immune response and the formation of antibodies. If antibodies did form, this would cause issues for repeat use of our product. This information made our team realize how our product could only be used on a one time basis. However in serious situations, our product would still be useful if it meant saving a life. Overall, Dr. Pryzdial’s comments gave us many things to consider in the design of our construct and any issues that we might have to troubleshoot. He believes that our project is an interesting exploration in the blood clotting area.

University of Alberta Hematology Department

We gained valuable insight in the development of our project design from Dr. Bruce Ritchie at the University of Alberta. Dr. Ritchie focuses on Bleeding disorders and Thrombosis and has also synthesized “recombinant blood clotting proteins, both in E.coli, and in human tissue culture cells”, while completing his post-doctoral fellowship in Biochemistry at the University of British Columbia. He supports our proposal, especially since many other competing companies producing blood coagulants (Tisseel, Duraseal, FlowSeal) utilize components of human blood. Nonetheless, he also provided us with further suggestions to consider in our design. Specifically, he raised his concern that “the venom proteins are likely to be immunogenic [,] caus[ing] an antibody response that will be a problem for re-treatment”. However, antibodies usually take 10-14 days to form, meaning that, since our goal is to prevent excessive blood loss in an emergency situation, the formation of antibodies is not as problematic in the acute phase. His advice did however lead us to infer that our product could only be used once per person because of the high chance of an immunogenic response from the body. Although we had considered designing our blood coagulant in a bandage and/or gel form, Dr. Ritchie also suggested another application method that we could consider. This would take the form of a pre-filled syringe that could be used to apply the product to the wound when needed. This application method is already being used by Pfizer’s blood coagulant, Xyntha, which “is preloaded in a syringe as a dried powder and a liquid solvent (typically water) that mix when the plunger is pressed”. Using the knowledge he provided, we eventually decided on using a pre-filled syringe containing our construct followed by a bandage for sealing it in place. Additionally, Dr. Ritchie suggested that our product design should be easy to remove from its packaging and apply, in addition to stressing the importance of storing and applying our blood coagulant in a sterile fashion. Overall, Dr. Ritchie’s expertise in the hematology field proved to be very beneficial in aiding with the design of our blood coagulant.

St. John's Ambulance

We were able to conduct a phone interview with Chris, the training manager for St. John’s Ambulance in our province, in order to gain further feedback on our our project design. The interview was centered mainly around the possible application of our blood coagulant and any other considerations we need to keep in mind when designing our construct. He informed us that hemostatic agents as the one that we are designing would be most effective in cavity wounds, which are difficult to treat using the traditional methods of slapping the wound and applying direct pressure to stop bleeding, as is often performed on flat wounds. Chris mentioned several pros and cons of applying our blood coagulant in a bandage or a gel form. Gels are more affected by temperature changes and become less effective in colder temperatures, which is not the case for bandages; however, bandages can quickly dry up in their packaging. Since special training is required to apply a hemostatic agent, it could not be included in a first-aid kit; however, it could still be marketed in stores such as Outdoor World. Chris also addressed his concern that the snake venom component included our construct could induce a systemic reaction when it comes into contact with the tissue. Overall, he stressed the importance of considering the shelf life our hemostatic agent, the application medium of our blood coagulant and if it causes any systemic reactions in the body. Although there are several hemostatic agents already being produced, he liked our approach of using a component of snake venom as it is very different from current methods, that use agents ranging from shellfish derivatives to volcanic rock . The interview with Chris from St. John’s Ambulance provided us with valuable feedback for us to consider in the further design of our project and its application. In fact, the positive and negative aspects he provided on application methods led us to decide on using a bandage component for applying our product.