Since Paracelsus’ (1493-1541) definition that the dose makes the drug, the basic treatment strategies have largely remained unchanged. Following diagnosis of a disease the doctor prescribes specific doses of small-molecule drugs or protein pharmaceuticals which interfere with disease-associated molecular targets. However, this treatment concept lacks any diagnostic feedback, prophylactic impact and dynamic dosage regimen. We have pioneered the concept of metabolic prostheses which, akin to mechanical prosthesis replacing defective body parts, interface with host metabolism to detect and correct metabolic disorders. Metabolic prostheses consist of designer cells containing synthetic sensor-effector gene networks which detect critical levels of disease metabolites, processes pathological input with Boolean logic and fine-tune in-situ production and release of protein therapeutics in a seamless, self-sufficient and closed-loop manner. When implanted inside insulated, immunoprotective and autovascularizing microcontainers the metabolic prostheses connect to the bloodstream, constantly monitor the levels of disease-associated metabolites and trigger an immediate therapeutic response to prevent, attenuate or correct the disease. With their unique characteristic to dynamically link diagnosis to dose-specific in-situ production and delivery of protein pharmaceuticals, metabolic protheses will enable new treatment strategies in the future. To highlight the impact of synthetic biology on future biomedical applications, we will present our latest generation of remote-controlled gene switches, biosensor circuits and metabolic prostheses tailored to diagnose, prevent and cure high-prevalence medical conditions including diabetes, cancer, pain, and multidrug-resistant pathogenic bacterica.
Jared Toettcher, Department of Molecular Biology
Butler Seminar Series