iGEM - Team Virginia - Team

The University of Virginia iGEM Team

A synthetic biology approach to promoting angiogenesis at traumatic wound sites

We use a synthetic biology approach to promote tissue regeneration at traumatic wound sites. Tissue regeneration is composed of three primary processes: the regrowth of functional parenchymal tissue, the regrowth of support tissues, and the regrowth of vasculature to sustain the nascent tissue formation (angiogenesis).

Although tissue engineering has offered several effective solutions to address the first two processes, our project attempts to build upon these ideas and develop a more cost-effective and robust method to promote angiogenesis at traumatic wound sites. We have devised a circuit to be incorporated in a yeast chassis that efficiently expresses two vital angiogenic proteins--vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and platelet derived growth factor (PDGF-β)--in a sequential and time-dependent manner that approximates the natural cascade of growth factor release in the human body. We also intend to submit a Biobrick-compatible yeast plasmid backbone for future use.

Contributions and Results

We contributed three genetic parts to the Registry, including a yeast plasmid backbone, PDGF sequence optimized for expression in yeast, and a related siRNA part for modular suppression and regulation.    

In addition, we published an in-depth human practices investigation of the legal and economic dimensions of intellectual property as it relates to synthetic biology, biomedical engineering, and our project.

Although set-backs in assembly prevented us from actually testing the complete circuit, we utilized ordinary differential equations to generate a model describing the behavior of each protein synthesis and employed the Michaelis-Menten Equation to describe the production of messenger RNAs. We further investigated the mathematical model using Matlab to explore the relationship between input and output, elucidiating the relationship between VEGF and PDGF-β over time.

Our sponsors

We'd like to thank the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Alumni Lacy Fund, and the Office of the Vice President for Research for providing funding for this project.

Who We Are

We're a group of five undergraduates at the University of Virginia from the departments of Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Psychology. Our research was overseen by three faculty advisors: Professor Kozminski, Professor Kwon, and Professor Papin.