Benefitting from synergies and the unique expertise of various projects within the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering, the focus will be on the design of cellular diagnosis and therapeutic production factories that detect and correct physiological disorders.
In modern medicine, diagnosis of disorders kick-off therapeutic interventions and early-stage discovery of pathologies significantly improves therapeutic success. However, most disorders will only be diagnosed when discomfort urges a patient to seek medical advice. In these cases treatment may be too late.
Tumour markers, immune response proteins and pathology-associated metabolites are monitored for diagnosis and therapy management by quantitative analysis of blood samples or biopsies. This requires medical intervention that is typically initiated when the patient has symptoms and is seeking medical advice. However, preventive medical check-ups for the prognosis of physiological disorders are not receiving enough attention.
Synthetic gene circuits that constantly monitor physiological processes, detect a pathological situation and produce diagnostic output or coordinate therapeutic interventions could change our health-care system from the standard symptom-treatment scheme to a symptom-free preventive care strategy.
Mind-Controlled Gene Expression (read the publication in full here): The Fussenegger-Group has designed a synthetic mind-controlled gene switch that enables human brain activities and mental states to wirelessly program transgene expression in cells. This device harnesses the electric energy of a person’s brainwaves thanks to an electro-encephalogram to trigger a light-emitting diode, which remotely activates light-inducible genes (optogenetic switch) in a small implant placed in mice. This technolgy, which was selected by the Scientist as one of 2014’s “Big-Advance” in Science, may provide cell-based treatments that respond to specific mental states.