Producing gold & silver nanoparticles to treat people with cancer, that is our goal
In the Netherlands, over 3000 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancer every year. Treatments are often invasive and the survival rate is strongly dependent on the type and stage of the cancer. A new, promising treatment strategy is called photothermal therapy and uses metallic nanoparticles to specifically target the tumor, making it less invasive for the patients. The goal of our team is produce gold and silver nanoparticles that are optimal for this therapy, to improve the treatment of head and neck cancers.
Read more about our project.
We need your help!
We are the iGEM Leiden team 2022, a group of ambitious students from Leiden University participating in a worldwide synthetic biology competition. We started this crowdfunding, as we are responsible for the funding of our project, including lab expenses and participation costs. That is why we ask for your support, to improve the survival changes and treatment circumstances for these cancer patients.
Watch our video for more on the team and our impact.
Through various social media channels you can stay up-to-date about our project. Every week we post about our project, activities we organize and the public lectures we give:
You can reach out to us on our socials or contact us through firstname.lastname@example.org
What is Photothermal therapy?
Photothermal therapy is a new cancer treatment, for which clinical trials are currently being conducted. With this treatment nanoparticles are injected into the patient and specifically target the tumour using antibodies. The tumour is then exposed to a Near Infrared (NIR) laser. The nanoparticles are able to convert this NIR light into heat, thereby killing the tumour cells.
In our project we aim to biologically synthesize metallic nanoparticles using bacteria. In literature, we found three proteins which positively affect the production of these nanoparticles. Their special feature is that they are very adept at converting gold and silver in solution into nanoparticles. Our goal is to enrich bacteria with these three proteins to produce the nanoparticles. Thereby we create a biological production process for the most optimal nanoparticles for photothermal therapy.
Nanoparticles made under different conditions. The colour of the box gives information on the amount and kind of nanoparticles.
Why biological synthesis using bacteria?
Nanoparticles used for photothermal therapy require specific properties for optimal conversion of energy to heat. A biological system is beneficial for the production of these nanoparticles, since proteins function very specifically. Under the right conditions, these proteins could therefore give exactly the right nanoparticles for photothermal therapy.
Additionally, it is important to ensure the production of these nanoparticles on a large scale is possible in order to make the therapy widely available. Chemical production of nanoparticles is difficult to up-scale due problems like the costs of chemicals or a labor-intensive process. A biological system could offer new possibilities in which we could more easily test different conditions, for instance temperature and concentrations. In this way we aim to create the best production method for our nanoparticles.
We are fourteen ambitious students with a passion for biology, research and solving problems. That is why we are participating in the international iGEM competition, where over 350 teams worldwide solve real-life problems with synthetic biology. We have a diverse team with bachelor and master students from different studies and with various nationalities, like Russian and Tanzanian. By combining our diverse backgrounds and knowledge, we are able to use synthetic biology in a creative way to solve societal problems.
Top row, left to right: Tino Hoeksma, undergraduate student Biology - Nadine van de Brug, graduate student Biopharmaceutical Sciences – Mirthe Zandbelt, undergraduate student LST – Eva Pakvis, undergraduate student Biology – Maxim Velli, undergraduate student LST – J.R. Quant, graduate student MGBT – Matthijs Hamstra, undergraduate student Biology – Elise Stengs, graduate student MGBT
Bottom row, left to right: Olivier Muzerie, undergraduate student LST – Zainab Rashid, graduate student MGBT – Moor de Waal, undergraduate student LST – Windi Putri Wulandari, graduate student MGBT – Anna Golova, undergraduate student Mathematics – Jennifer Adami, graduate student MGBT
LST = Life, Science and Technology
MGBT = Molecular Genetics & Biotechnology
Read more about the competition on the iGEM website.
Currently we still need €10.000 for our project. Half of this will go to lab materials. Part of the experiments we have finished already, but we would like to conduct more research into the properties of these nanoparticles. That way, we can be sure that they are effective and safe to use.
The other half will go to the iGEM competition we are joining. We use the money to cover the costs of joining the Grand Jamboree: there we get a session with jury members and a place to show our project. Part of these costs we have already raised with sponsoring and funding from the Honours Academy of Leiden University. The rest we would like to raise with this crowdfunding.
iGEM expects over 7000 participants this year at the Jamboree, but a lot of other people including journalists, investors and people from the industry will also be present. We hope to win with our project at the Jamboree, to highlight this new cancer therapy to the entire scientific community.
Read more about the Grand Jamboree on the iGEM website.