Race against gene doping with iGEM
Since 2003 the WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) publicly started the battle against the newest form of doping, gene doping. Gene doping has been prohibited for 15 years, but there is still no suitable detection method in place. This year, our team has accepted the challenge to develop an effective detection method for gene doping with our project ADOPE, Advanced Detection of Performance Enhancement. In October we will travel to Boston to defend our project and the world title at the biggest international competition in synthetic biology, iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine). For this we need you help! Join our battle against gene doping and donate now!
In contrast to conventional types of doping, like proteins that are being injected, gene doping is a relatively innovative method for performance enhancement. Gene doping is based on the injection of extra DNA, that will cause a higher production of performance enhancing proteins in a natural way.
With our project ADOPE, we aim to take advantage of the slight differences between gene doping DNA and regular human DNA. With the help of an on CRISPR-Cas based innovative fusion-protein the code of the gene doping DNA will be targeted and will be “read” with the help of recently developed sequencing methods, or “next generation sequencing”. In this way we guarantee the athlete’s privacy on our way to fair, healthy and safe sports.
We wish to realize this project and safeguard TU Delft's World Champion title! To this extent, we need your help for purchasing next generation sequencing equipment.
The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition is the largest international competition in synthetic biology. The competition began in January 2003 as an independent study course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where students developed biological devices to make cells blink. This course became a summer competition with 5 teams in 2004 and continued to grow to 13 teams in 2005; it expanded to 300 teams in 2016, reaching 42 countries and over 5000 participants.
This year the TU Delft iGEM team will participate for the 11th time. In these eleven years of competing iGEM TU Delft has established itself as a big contestant by winning multiple category prizes and Grand Prize winner in 2017 and 2015. Every year each team chooses a new project that faces a scientific or social issue. The team designs, executes and verifies its own project. Next to the scientific focus on the application of the newest techniques in synthetic biology, other aspects like bio-ethics, bio-safety and outreach play a key role in the iGEM competition.
Rapid developments in synthetic biology continue to offer solutions for multidisciplinary platforms. Gene therapy, as one of the many applications, is a promising method for the rapid improvement of human health. However, with powerful technology comes great responsibility: unethical and undesired applications of synthetic biology have remained prevalent ever since its emergence. Among these, abuse of gene therapy by athletes to improve sports performances, also known as gene doping, is a rising trend as an innovative doping strategy.
Gene doping has already caught the preventional attention of the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) in 2003, leading to its addition to the Prohibited List for professional sporters. Extensive research efforts have been conducted to develop detection methods. However, they remain prone to failure in detecting the potential diversity of gene doping (e.g, splicing patterns, promoter choices and codon optimization). Currently the implementation of gene doping detection is explored by the doping authorities, but there is still a large need for the development of robust and reliable methods.
This year, the iGEM team TU Delft aims to develop a routine, reliable and robust method for the detection of gene doping. The method Advanced Detection of Performance Enhancement, “ADOPE”, is based on targeted next generation sequencing, using a technically unique and innovative CRISPR-Cas - Transposase fusion protein. The specificity of the Cas-protein ensures that only the targeted gene doping DNA will be edited in the necessary specific way by the transposase desired for sequencing. Our technology is developed in a way that ensures the possibility of detecting any foreign DNA as long as gRNAs are provided accordingly, which allows for the flexible application of the technique beyond gene doping detection.