Slovenian Scientists Won the iGEM Competition on Synthetic Biology (USA)

A young Slovenian team of scientists won the prestigious competition held by the iGEM (USA) organization in the category of fundamental research.

What Was Done by the Slovenian Scientists?

A team of the Slovenian Institute of Chemistry under the direction of Roman Jerala was engaged in one of the biggest challenges of synthetic biology. Their research aims to amend existing organisms so that they will perform new functions useful to humans.

The Slovenian scientists sped up the response of organisms to environmental signals from several hours or days to just a few minutes or seconds. The Institute of Chemistry explains that for the proper functioning of the organism, it is essential that the body respond to changes such as the concentration of glucose in the blood during several minutes, as in a few hours it may be too late.

Progress in Treating Patients with Parkinson’s Disease and Diabetes

The main result that the team of Slovenian scientists managed to achieve is the creation of cells that are sensitive to touch or stimulation with ultrasound. This means that scientists can theoretically control the activity of cells of a human body. “We want in this way to influence the brain cells. It will help people suffering from Parkinson’s disease avoid surgery, but in the future it will be possible to cause the accelerated secretion of insulin, which is important for diabetics,” Roman Jerala explained.

The iGEM is a prestigious science competition, which takes place in Boston (USA). In 2016, a record number (300) of scientific teams attended it. The Institute of Chemistry (Ljubljana) allows young professionals to take part in the competition at the expense of the Janko Jamnik Fund. This Fund was created to support talented young people, who devoted themselves to science. The Institute of Chemistry aims to support the promising young scientists with original ideas.