MIT iGEM 2022
Imagine an excrutiating sore on the inside of your mouth. It keeps you from eating and drinking anything, and the things you do eat or drink don't taste like they used to.
This is the experience of oral mucositis patients.
Oral mucositis is the inflammation and breakdown of epithelial cells in the mouth. It is a common complication of cancer therapies, affecting 40% of all cancer patients treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy and 90% of head and neck cancer patients. This occurs due to the death of cells in mouth and later manifests in infection and ulceration.
Our solution, GSHield, is a patch made of a naturally-synthesized, biodegradable gel-like material that can be placed in the mouth to prevent infection and ulceration.
Oral mucositis (OM) is a common complication of cancer therapies characterized by the breakdown of epithelial cells in the oral cavity, resulting in inflammation-promoting reactive oxygen species (ROS) and DNA damage. This leads to the death of surrounding oral epithelial cells, which leaves the mucosal tissue susceptible to infection and ulceration. Current therapeutics focus on improving oral hygiene and treating pain. However, GSHield aims to reduce surrounding non-cancerous cell death and provide a protective barrier between the oral cavity and irritants. We aim to produce a bacterial cellulose patch functionalized with yeast engineered to increase extracellular production of glutathione, an antioxidant that quenches ROS. ADP1 and GSH1, which are involved in export and synthesis will be overexpressed, while genes encoding for degradation will be knocked out. Our system will be able to sense and respond to environmental signals using the CCP1 promoter, which is responsive to oxidative stress.