University of Dundee

'Lung Ranger' lassos the UK Cystic Fibrosis community - iGEM 2014 speak at the national CF conference

05 Sep 2014

A team of Dundee students who are developing a device to help combat some of the effects of cystic fibrosis have been invited to present their idea at a national CF conference.
The iGEM team of students from the University of Dundee has spent the summer working on the `Lung Ranger’, which they hope will allow faster and more targeted treatment of infection for CF patients.
Today the students were invited to speak at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust national conference in Manchester and share their idea with patients and clinicians.
The Lung Ranger is made up of the harmless laboratory bacterium E. coli that has been engineered to glow green when either of the most aggressive lung pathogens Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Burkholderia cenocepacia are detected in the sputum (mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract).
Members of the team are building a hand-held electronic device that can be used by the patient or their GP that will rapidly detect and quantify the green fluorescence, allowing a quick and sensitive diagnosis of the presence of these pathogens.
“This is a great project the students have put together and it has been a real boost to them to be invited to present it at a major conference like this,” said Professor Tracy Palmer, advisor to the student team.
iGEM – the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition – asks students to tackle a real world problem by designing and building a new device or system from a kit of biological parts.
Last year Dundee won the European leg of the event and scooped two further prizes at the World Final in Boston.
This year’s team has chosen to work on cystic fibrosis, a disease which is found worldwide but is particularly prevalent in Scotland, where approximately 1 in 2000 babies are born with the condition. Cystic fibrosis results in the production of highly viscous mucous in the lungs that can be colonised by bacteria, resulting in repeated respiratory infections.
The iGEM students have been working closely with members of the CF team at Ninewells Hospital, and have had the opportunity to meet with patients and discuss their particular issues and needs so that their project is a collaborative endeavor between researchers, healthcare practitioners and patient groups.
Ms Lawrie MacDougall, a Cystic Fibrosis Clinical Nurse Specialist based at Ninewells Hospital said, “We have absolutely enjoyed having the iGEM team on board with this project development. Their enthusiasm, passion and genuine interest in the patients they have met and interviewed is both inspiring and heartwarming.
“Over years, Cystic Fibrosis care has evolved massively through research and the quest of scientists striving to find better treatment and cure. The iGEM team at Dundee have demonstrated that collaboration and academic skill have merged together precisely to reach successful results. The Dundee CF team wish them the very best of luck in taking this project across the Atlantic to be shared in America.”
The team is interdisciplinary and is comprised of ten University of Dundee undergraduate students – Dave Burrell (Computing Science), Gillian Forsyth (Mathematical Biology), Scott McCrimmon (Plant Sciences),  Roddy McNeill (Biological Chemistry and Drug Discovery), Jessica Martyn (Microbiology), Dimitrios Michailidis (Molecular Microbiology), Aleksandra Plochocka (Mathematics), Robyn Shuttleworth (Mathematics), Fatima Ulhuq (Pharmacology) and Jenny Wood (Molecular Microbiology).