Discovery Park Undergraduate Research Internship Program

"CPIP: Genetically Engineered Machines for Treatment of Brain Tumors"

About the Project

Project Time & Type:
Full-Year 2010 - CPIP
Research area(s):
synthetic biology, cell therapies, glioblastoma, brain tumors
Project Description:
international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) for Cancer. Gliomas represent 80% of malignant human brain tumors. Median survival for the highest grade glioma, glioblastoma (GBM), is 10-12 months. GBM represents over 50% of all gliomas. Current therapies for gliomas successfully shrink tumor mass but do not eradicate all tumor initiating cells resulting in tumor regrowth. These therapies were developed under the assumption that all cells have the same capacity to accumulate mutations that initiate and maintain tumors. Recently, the “cancer stem cell” theory challenges prior thinking and states that stem cells, which are inherently immortal and capable of long term cell division, accumulate mutations resulting in a source of mutated progenitors and somatic cells that make up the mass of tumors. Cancer stem cells make up only a small percentage of the tumor mass, but can be highly resistant to treatment and may be the primary tumor initiating cells. Therapies that successfully target this small population of cells may revolutionize cancer treatment and offers new hope for tumor eradication. It is the goal of this project to apply synthetic biology to cell based therapies as an alternative approach to cancer treatment. This project focuses on the engineering of microglia to seek, identify, and label or destroy CD133+ cancer stem cells isolated from human GBM. The student on this project will be part of a larger undergraduate research team that competes in the annual iGEM competition held in Cambridge, MA in November 2010.
Expected Student Contributions:
This DURI student will be working with the design and production of biological "parts" (i.e. dna) that will be expressed and manipulated in microglia to impart novel physiological features into the cells.
Related Website(s):
Desired Qualifications:
GPA > 3.0 science or engineering or Ag major
Estimated Weekly Hours:
Department awards independent research credits for this project?
Yes, 4 credit hours

Professor in Charge

Rickus, Jenna
agricultural and biological engineering

Student Supervisor

Jessamine Osborne (along with Dr. Rickus)
graduate student

Cooperating Faculty

Kari Clase
College of Technology, Bindley Bioscience Center
Tim Bentley
School of Vet Medicine