This is our first year participating in geekStarter as an iGEM team, and we're excited to work on a gene engineering project that sets out to address the growing problem of nicotine addiction in youth. Nicotine addiction has plagued the human race for decades. In recent times, a new form of nicotine intake via electronic, or e-cigarettes, known as vaping has become quite prevalent among the adolescent population in our local Alberta communities, as well as on a global scale.
Although many view vaping as a “healthier” alternative to smoking, the high concentrations of harmful chemicals in the e-cigarette vapour can damage human lungs. E-cigarettes also contain nicotine salts as the bioavailable form of nicotine, which are a more concentrated form of nicotine than the nicotine found in traditional tobacco products like cigarettes. Our team is planning to utilize the biosynthesis of a nicotine-degrading enzyme known as NicA2 to potentially reduce nicotine concentration and availability to cells, including neurons.
The primary objective of our proposed NicA2 product will be to assist individuals, particularly youth, that are addicted to vaping, by providing a novel method to help eliminate nicotine addiction. Our hope is to look at the economic benefits of our proposed design to achieve this goal, while also having little to no detrimental impacts or side effects on the body.