This winter quarter at UC Davis I’m taking a course called ‘Biotechnology Fundamentals and Applications’ by Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung, which is required for my degree with a designated emphasis in biotechnology (DEB). (This is like a doctoral minor. It will show up on my diploma and my transcript.) This course will cover some of the history, basic molecular biology and chemical engineering topics relevant in the biotechnology field right now. In addition, we’ll be working in an interdisciplinary team to build a business plan towards developing a theoretical biotechnology product. AND, we will practice science communication across disciplines!
We were given an assignment to post 4 tweets during the quarter with #MCB263 on a topic relevant to the course, then summarize our reasoning for posting and topics posted by members of our group. The idea is to help us brainstorm ideas with our groups for developing our biotechnology product.
For this week, here is my post:
This was a retweet from The Scientist about a group from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory who recently published a report in the journal Small on their progress with developing an on-demand protein synthesis and delivery system. I chose to post about this for several reasons:
The first is that this system – once working – could be used to treat diseases that require a single protein, e.g. Type I diabetes where the patient is unable to produce their own insulin as a result of autoimmune dysfunction attacking pancreatic beta islet cells. Current treatment of Type I diabetes requires delivery of insulin produced by recombinant technologies. This requires a company to manufacture insulin, which then has to be shipped, refrigerated, and delivered. Drawbacks from this include being dependent on a company to manufacture the insulin, storage temps requiring refrigeration, and then management of deliver or ‘how do I get the insulin in my body?’ Usually, needles or pump with infusion set requiring periodic injection to create a port.
This new microfluidics system means that all you need is the bioreactor system stuck onto to the skin of the patient. (or inside?) The insulin is manufactured on demand and relies on diffusion of endogenous amino acids and metabolites across a nanoporous membrane.
Second, this technology is interesting because it could possibly be used to manufacture and deliver many different small proteins, e.g. peptide neurotransmitters to a biological system. This could allow researchers to study the effects of these small proteins on a biological time scale without having to inject the molecules at specific – possibly ineffectual – time periods. There are neuropeptides, e.g. hypothalamic neuropeptides such as NPY that regulate metabolism that may be beneficial to be synthesized and delivered on demand. Scientists can figure out when the demand is occurring, rather than having to guess.
I think this is all really cool and has the potential to revolutionize the level at which the medical field is able to treat metabolic diseases, neuropathies, and aging.
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