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Human Practice

Snifferomyces - A Tuberculosis Screening Automaton

What is the use of technology, if it cannot contribute to improving human life? With this thought in mind, the TU Delft 2012 iGEM team, composed of students from the life sciences, bioinformatics, applied physics, aerospace, mechanical and chemical engineering disciplines decided to use the platform of synthetic biology, addressing a real challenge affecting millions of people .
Inspired by the sniffer rats trained to smell the presence of tuberculosis, the team decided to build an autonomous olfactory system to detect volatile compounds, by re-inventing man's oldest industrial microorganism, yeast, to provide for a non-invasive, rapid and cost-effective diagnosis system for tuberculosis.

The problem

Lack of diagnostic capacity has been a crucial barrier preventing an effective response to the challenges of Tuberculosis (TB). It is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent. In 2010, 8.8 million people fell ill with TB and 1.4 million died from it. Over 95% of TB deaths occur in low -and middle- income countries where, standard TB diagnostic tools, that need to be used in a lab setting, pose major barriers for screening. This happens due to the costs and the time involved in the process.

(according to World Health Organization)

At the map below you can see the countries suffering from Tuberculosis. According to the dark green refers to many cases of TB, the light green to less and the white to a few cases.

Human practice

Our team focused on several part of the category called human practise. We were in a very good collaboration with a MSc student in Educational studies named Amalia Ephrat. During the brainstorm sessions the team helped her to observe collaborative learning activities.

We are also part of a documentary called Lab-Life, which is filmed by Frank Theys. In this documentary he follows the daily life of the scientific research project of our team. For this documentary an embedded humanist, Daan Schuurbiers was partly involved with our p roject. His professional view on social sciences helped our team a lot.

Furthermore, during the European jamboree TUDelft 2012 iGEM team will organize together with the Rathenau Institute a debate called Meeting of Young Minds. The subject of this debate will be the H5N1 virus and weather the research manuscript should have been published. This will be a very interesting debate with different experts, the team and of course the audience!