KCL iGEM 2020: Renervate

King’s College London is a world-renowned, research-led university that has a rich history in being at the forefront of scientific progress. This year a group of students from the Faculties of Life Sciences & Medicine and Bioengineering are working together to compete in the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM). iGEM is a highly prestigious genetic engineering competition in which more than 350 teams from across the world carry out groundbreaking research throughout the summer and present their results at MIT in autumn. Every year, students design and implement their own lab work as well as get involved with the public and engage with the ethics of their projects. King’s College London’s 2020 team - Renervate - aims to revolutionise current treatments for Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). We want to create a less invasive way to treat fractures in the vertebral column while simultaneously preventing neuronal degeneration, ultimately looking to promote spinal cord regeneration. Although we have just begun, we have been working extraordinarily hard to develop our project. So far, we have carried out in-depth research into the physiology of SCI as well as the genes and proteins that will help us achieve our goals and taking into account the advice from top researchers in these fields to guide us – all on top of our studies!


Approximately 250-500,000 individuals worldwide suffer from SCI. In the UK alone, nearly 2,500-3,500 people are diagnosed with SCI every year with a total of 50,000 people living with the disorder. SCI, which is the damage of the cells that make up the spinal cord, usually comes hand in hand with a fracture in the vertebral column. What makes this injury so traumatic are the associated symptoms, which include paralysis, loss of sensation, loss of bowel and bladder control, and chronic pain. While a great deal of research has gone into SCI, it is still considered incurable and there is massive room for improvement. Current treatments are highly invasive, do not have high levels of regenerative success, and leave patients in pain for life. Those affected are primarily the elderly, who frequently suffer from falls, or children, young adults and professionals, and adult cyclists who have suffered from car accidents. The average lifetime cost of health and social care for a person with a spinal cord injury in the UK is £1.12 million. This is only the tip of the iceberg for the affected individuals. Nearly 48.5% of patients diagnosed with spinal cord injuries also suffer from mental health problems including depression, anxiety and PTSD due to the sudden reduction in their quality of life. The economic, physical and mental devastation caused by SCI cannot be understated. 


SCI is evidently a heartbreaking disorder and we want to do our best to help better the lives of those who suffer from this condition. Thus, we will tackle the problem of SCI by creating a less invasive procedure that will not require the use of painful metal surgical plates, bolts, screws and pins. Additionally, we want to look to prevent the continued degeneration of axons and hopefully stimulate axonal growth at the site of injury, thus allowing the spinal cord to be restored. To do so, we are taking a biomaterial approach and will be using synthetic biology to find new ways of looking at the problem. 


However, this project is entirely self-funded. We need to support all of our work in the lab and are looking to you for help. By supporting us, you are making a true difference in scientific progress and are moving humanity one step closer to a cure for what was once believed to be incurable. Any donation, however big or small, will be greatly appreciated as it will take us one step closer to our goal!

Donations ()

  • Rachel Hunt 
    • £20 
    • 1 d
  • Anonymous 
    • £30 
    • 7 d
  • Elisabeth Ehler 
    • £20 
    • 15 d
  • Anonymous 
    • £20 
    • 15 d
  • Mark Pfuhl 
    • £20 
    • 15 d
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Fundraising team: Renervate (16)

Leon Zhang 
Organizer
Raised £70 from 2 donations
Guys Hospital, Greater London, United Kingdom
Alya Masoud 
Beneficiary
Abby Conner 
Team member
Raised £727 from 9 donations
Ela Kanani 
Team member
Raised £305 from 9 donations
Emily Blundell 
Team member
Raised £150 from 2 donations
Kyriakos Attouni 
Team member
Raised £130 from 2 donations
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