Team:Tsinghua/Human Practices

Human Practice


As a committed and supportive member of the iGEM community, we believe in the value of
“go beyond the lab” and devote ourselves to interacting with peers in life sciences, as
well as lay teenagers that are fascinated by the secret of life. Through lively presentations,
exchange of ideas and even hot debates, we inspire and illuminate each other, with pure
curiosity for science.

The voice within

A priceless tradition for the Tsinghua iGEM community is that once you have become an iGEMer,
you are integrated into a welcoming community, within which crazy ideas are freely allowed
and team members are uncontionally supported. We therefore started the Human Practice section
by incorporating voices from previous iGEM members from Tsinghua University, and named it "The
Voice Within", because we genuinely believe their opinions are truly reflective of who we are.
Views below were collected from three iGEM team members in the past. We truly appreciate their
insightful input.

"Detrimental gene mutation leading to cancer has been a problem that perplex human for a long time,
and still not solved yet. While cancer immunotherapy become hotspot and achieved a lot of progress
recent years, there are many restrictions in this field to deal with the solid tumor. So I was really
interested in iGEM 2016 Tsinghua’s project when I knew that they wanted to design such a surveillance
system. It can, to some degree, cut off the road from gene mutation to cancer. I consider it a quite
innovative idea and feel hopeful that they decided to utilize the dCas9 as a core tool to manipulate it.
With the advances in dCas9 function and manipulation, this surveillance system can be realized in cancer
precaution with advantages like low-cost, effective, precisely controlled and convenient.

As a member of iGEM 2015 Tsinghua team, I feel glad to see that this team has become more mature in the
way of thinking and realizing their projects. Even though they went through several obstacles, they work
together and solve them together, which made the whole team grow together. I wish you a good luck, iGEM
2016 Tsinghua team!", Xiong Sihan, Team Tsinghua 2015.

"Finding ways to surveil and respond to genetic mutations is one of the most pivotal mission for all living
creatures along the river of evolution, also for scientists today, who have been sparing no effort in
seeking ways to prevent and treat cancer. In addressing this challenging question, Tsinghua Team raised a
pioneering idea of using a RNA-targeting CRISPR/Cas9 system to detect critical genetic mutations and induce
the suicide of the mutated cells. Creating Cas9 protein with GAL4 binding ability and precise discrimination
of normal and mutated genes are two highlights of the project. Delicate control of the whole system is
never easy, however, Tsinghua Team has successfully proved the concept in baking yeast. The next goal may
be mammalian systems. From my perspectives, techniques like the suvCas9 have great potential in next
generation of cancer therapy because they could work together with the hosts’ immune system to prevent
malignancy at the first line.", Liu Yue, Team Tsinghua 2014.

"Congratulations that you have done a really cool job! I am fascinated by what you have brought to the iGEM
society. Surveillance is a rather important idea, that you're treating a cellular system, or your genetic
machine, less like a pool of interactions but more like a sophisticated and well-functioning system, with
top-down self regulation. This, I believe, will be one of the foundations for future genetic machines, and
your delecate work will provide huge help for future iGEMers and researchers. Look so much forward to your
presentation this year!", Wang Jiawei, Team Tsinghua 2015.

Public engagement

Public engagement and education: Synthetic Biology Workshop:
How synthetic biology can change our life

What is synthetic biology? What can we do with synthetic biology? From the GATC of DNA, we
guided members of the YouthBiopark Summer Camp through their first voyage into synthetic biology.

Collaborating with China International Education Institute, we made Tsinghua a highlight in
the twelve-day summer camp. Members were middle school students, barely with any background
in molecular biology, recruited throughout China, who took a genuine interest in life
sciences. Starting from the basic principles of molecular cloning to the infinite possibilities
of synthetic biology, the lecture we gave pictured this exciting branch of life sciences in a
nutshell, which was received with widened eyes and dozens of questions.

The ideas planted immediately sprouted, blossomed and fruited.

What if we identify the sex-determining gene in mosquito, and by genetic modification, make
the progenies all male?

“I’m thinking about making a bacterial sensor for PM 2.5 or other common sources of pollution...
perhaps, when it sensed the pollution it could give a clear indication of risk, like changing
into different colors.”

We were truly impressed by the ideas they came up with, just at a first glimpse into this world.
We discussed each of them thoroughly, dissecting every step to examine its feasibility, demonstrating
how we can convert a fancy idea to a practical project based on the principles of synthetic biology.
Though some of them seemed far away from reality, there were intriguing perspectives in every
suggestion. At the end of discussion, we gave a general summary of the fields that synthetic biology
has already influenced or even shaped: pharmaceutics, pollution management, energy, diagnostic,
nutrition...and many other aspects in basic research.

Following the idea-to-project workshop was a lab tour to catch a glimpse of the “real world” where
all those fantastic possibilities are realized. We briefly introduced the procedure, equipment
and materials for molecular cloning in the lab, and showed examples of genetically engineered

Though the journey didn’t last long, it was a fruitful and memorable one. We got really encouraging
feedbacks: “This is so cool and I’d like to explore more about synthetic biology in the future!”
Meanwhile, we were also inspired by the ideas and comments they gave. It was a privilege to bring
the ideas of synthetic biology to the members of the summer camp, and to see that our efforts can
indeed make a difference and attract more people to learn about, or even fall in love with this
branch of science.

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