Fighting bacterial antibiotic resistance
MEET PYO PYO
Antibiotics were discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, and were considered at the time a "magic drug" that can handle all types of bacteria. As the years went by, bacteria that developed resistance to different types of antibiotics started to emerge due to the wide usage of antibiotics globally. This phenomenon results today in an estimated 700,000 to several million deaths per year. If not treated properly, it is predicted to result in 10 million victims per year by the year 2050.
We, at the iGEM 2019 Tel Aviv University team, have decided to focus on finding a new alternative to antibiotics using Pyocins - a weapon that is already produced by certain bacteria and used against bacterial competitors.
Pyocins are protein complexes that are produced by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa to attack rival bacteria. Pyocins are shaped like a cylinder with attached tails. The tails contain proteins that are able to identify and bind a Pseudomonas rival. When Pseudomonas senses distress, it produces a large amount of pyocins, explodes, and spreads the pyocins in its environment.
The released pyocins’ tails detect and bind specific rival bacteria, leading to contraction of the pyocin cylinder and perforation of the target bacterial membrane. This dissipates the bacterial membrane potential and results in death of the rival bacteria.
In our iGEM project, we will produce the pyocins in a friendly bacterium, E. coli, that can be found as a commensal in the humans intestine. In our system, we will change the tip of the pyocin tails so that they can detect and kill a bacterial pathogen of choice. The goal of our project is to create non-pathogenic E. coli that will be administered to patients, sense pathogenic bacteria, and create pyocins with a tail that can specifically target and kill the identified pathogen. This way, we can create a flexible "drug factory" that produces a specific drug that targets only bacteria that are harmful to the patient. This solution will not only terminate the harmful bacteria, but will also prevent the natural selection process towards antibiotic resistant.
International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition
The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition is a worldwide synthetic biology competition taking place in Boston. Every year, hundreds of groups from different universities worldwide participate in the competition, presenting novel ideas that address current global issues.
We at the iGEM 2019 Tel Aviv University team have decided to fight back and join the "arms race" against antibiotics resistant bacteria. We will use bacteria’s own weapons against them, and improve on their design. We believe that this method will be part of a future solution to bacterial infections.
Our team consist of 13 students in the third and fourth year of their B.Sc. studies from the Engineering, Life Science, and Exact Science Faculties at Tel Aviv University. We combine interdisciplinary techniques in synthetic biology, engineering, and bioinformatics to tackle to problem of antibiotic resistance. We are developing our project, PYO PYO, for the iGEM 2019 competition