The project described below may seem to be from a consolidated research group with years of work behind them, but in reality it is carried out by a group of students from different bioscience degrees at the University of Barcelona who plan nothing more and nothing less than to modify a lymphoma cell line so that, using genetic engineering and synthetic biology techniques, it produces highly purified exosomes loaded with an anti-Burkitt's lymphoma interference RNA. Pretty much.
This is the project of the VESIPROD team, the UB's first participation in the prestigious iGEM synthetic biology award, an international competition that promotes the development of new visions and ideas by young and emerging talent to solve current health problems, without the constraints and inertia of professional academic research.
Burkitt's lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that affects the antibody-producing cells, the B lymphocytes. It is an aggressive disease, which grows rapidly and can affect the nervous system producing weakness and general fatigue. Chemotherapy is the main treatment indicated for patients with this type of lymphoma, but unfortunately it is not effective in one out of two patients. New therapeutic tools are therefore well needed.
This is where exosomes come into play. Those are small vesicles released by many cell types and are part of the intercellular communication systems of many tissues. Exosomes, which could be described as tiny droplets of fat, can carry various types of cargo within them and affect the activity of the target cells.
The VESIPROD group wants to explore the possibility of using exosomes with specific inhibitors of Burkitt's lymphoma, specifically RNA interference, as a new way to fight the disease and open a second line of treatment. To this end, they will be working all summer in Dr. Gaël Roué’s lab, a researcher from the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute, who offers them technical advice and a next-generation research environment to develop the first prototype, which they will present in October at the iGEM Jamboree.
Beyond the awards and the possibility of taking the project to a development phase in the future, what is undeniable is that despite their youth, the members of the VESIPROD team can already be considered researchers in their own right. At the moment, they have already managed to involve the University of Barcelona, Palobiofarma and Capital Cell as sponsors of the project, and they have the institutional support of the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the Josep Carreras Institute. If you want to participate in the crowdfunding of the initiative, check out the following link: Participation in iGEM international competition (gofundme.com).