The student research team of LMU & TU Munich is developing a CRISPR/Cas based detection environment for rapid low-cost diagnosis of infectious diseases.
Microfluidic CascAID device
CascAID stands for Cas13a Controlled Assay for Infectious Diseases. Their goal is to create a novel paper-based microfluidic device for the detection of specific RNA sequences.
Nowadays, there is a trend among medical practitioners to prescribe antibiotics when bacterial infections are suspected without a laboratory confirmation as a way for speeding up recovery. This has led to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that makes it difficult to treat infected patients.
Pathogen reporting within hours
Nucleic acid-based detection methods could allow for faster diagnosis. Therefore, the team seeks to develop a method that allows to report the presence of a specific pathogen within hours. For this reason, they will use the CRISPR effector Cas13a, which is able to target specific single-stranded RNA. This system allows for the simple and fast design of new sequence targets, being an ideal tool for detecting fast mutating pathogens.
Detection of bacterial and viral infections
In the long term, the LMU & TU Munich iGEM team sees their device as an easy-to-use and fast diagnostic tool in developing countries as well as an instrument in developed countries for discerning between bacterial and viral infections, that could help reducing antibiotics prescription.
Please introduce yourself and describe your project in three sentences.
iGEM Team Munich: We are 17 students from the two Munich universities LMU and TU from different MINT (mathematics, information technology, natural sciences, and technology) degree programs. This year we are working with a CRISPR Cas13a-based system as well as with microfluidics techniques to distinguish bacterial from viral infections.
You have chosen a challenging project. What are your boosters? What is it that motivates you the most?
iGEM Team Munich: Synthetic biology offers many possibilities and is a field in science, you can count on in the future. We as a student group are mainly motivated by the idea to have the opportunity to do something in this area, which could be useful in the end. Participating at the iGEM competition, gives us the opportunity to test new laboratory methods, and also to exchange ideas with people from other teams from around the world and learn from each other.
We got to know you as a friendly and enthusiastic team. What else makes you unique?
iGEM Team Munich: The CascAID team is a group of people from different countries. This multicultural mix enriches our group, because we profit mutually from each other in a various ways – both scientifically and interpersonally.
An international competition like iGEM is a major challenge and can also be quite exhausting. What takes most of your energy and power? How do you motivate yourselves when you’re in need of a "push"?
iGEM Team Munich: The organization and communication within the team takes a lot of time and is very complex. But it’s a great opportunity to learn how to get our tasks done efficiently. Of course it also requires a good time management to organize the laboratory work as well as attending the university lectures and exams. Nevertheless, it is a lot of fun to work together and to tackle our project together.
Everybody wants to win. Why do you think the trophy should be yours? What makes your project / team so unique?
iGEM Team Munich: Our idea has great potential in the field of diagnostics. Fast and cost-effective infectious disease testing should be accessible to everyone in the world. We can make this possible by realising our project. We get a lot of support by TU, LMU and the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry Munich, and can always rely on their broad range of expertise. This specific cooperation is a great benefit for us students. The CascAID team also pushes the constant dialog with the general public and various companies to emphasize the benefits but also the potential dangers in synthetic biology.