iGEM is an international synthetic biology competition for University students, happening every year in Boston, and we are excited to have the Harvard IGEM team coming to Boslab to present their project!
Many bothersome skin conditions, such as Keratosis pilaris and Seborrheic keratosis, manifest themselves as skin lesions characterized by a buildup of keratin. Our unique approach is to functionally degrade this excess keratin by genetically modifying a strain of E.coli to express and secrete endo-acting, exo-acting, and oligopeptide-acting keratinase enzymes. Although just one of these enzymes is sufficient for partial degradation of keratin, complete degradation requires these three separate enzymes acting synergistically. We plan to encapsulate this modified bacteria in a porous alginate hydrogel that will allow for the diffusion of nutrients and the growth of bacteria as well as the secretion of our enzymes of interest. We plan to utilize this mechanism to create a keratin-degrading patch or topical gel as a therapeutic method for keratin-related diseases. Producing a keratinase patch may also yield a non-invasive procedure to treat non-cancerous or pre-cancerous afflictions that would conventionally require freezing or surgical removal.
About the team:
We are a team of aspiring undergraduate student engineers who are representing Harvard University this year at the annual iGEM Jamboree, an international competition where students showcase their novel research projects in synthetic biology. Our goal is to foster engagement and excitement among prospective scientists and the public in our field of research. This summer, we feel lucky to have been welcomed into such a collaborative and vibrant research community!