Dry Lab


1. Overview


▶ For novel technologies to be widely accepted, it is essential to work steadily to promote these technologies to people of diverse backgrounds. In particular, we were advocating a concept that was not covered by existing regulations, namely, that designing genetically modified organisms so that they would not proliferate, would lower the regulatory hurdle. Since this is a new concept, it was very important for us to promote and facilitate discussions about synthetic biology and the technologies we had developed.

▶ In our activity cycle, education played a major role in the timing of “5. Project Sharing and Discussions”.

There are very few ways to access the knowledge of synthetic biology in Japanese. Since we participated in iGEM this year for the first time and we were the first high school iGEM team to be native Japanese speakers, we had a hard time gaining a deep understanding of synthetic biology. Because of that experience, we were dedicated to using every means imaginable, to spread knowledge of synthetic biology. We conducted interactive classes, lectures, and laboratory classes on synthetic biology and our research topic, depression. In carrying out all of our projects, we kept two things in mind:

  1. Learning must not be limited by one’s background such as age, gender, region, social position, physical characteristics, etc.
  2. Reflect on participants’ feedback in the next project so that it will lead to new knowledge and opportunities.

To fulfill the first point, we conducted projects for almost all ages including elementary school students, junior high and high school students, and adults, as well as barrier-free projects for the visually impaired. By doing so, we made sure that as many people as possible could deepen their understanding of synthetic biology and depression. We conducted these educational activities in different areas of Japan, taking advantage of the fact that we are not based on school or area.

To accomplish the second point, similar to the DBTL cycle in experiments, we used the projects we had already conducted to improve the quality of the next project, so that we could provide a better project for the participants.

We also made all the materials used in the education available in a downloadable format for use by other iGEM teams and people who want to spread the word about synthetic biology. The PDF documents for each item allow for a reconstruction of the educational activities we have done.

2. Publication of Articles on Synthetic Biology

▶ By publishing a wide range of articles on synthetic biology on the Internet, we have spread awareness of synthetic biology literacy in Japan.

In Japan, there is very few number of literature that covers the basics of synthetic biology, and we have had a very difficult time studying this topic. Therefore, we have compiled basic and advanced information on synthetic biology and made it open access online, so that people of the same generation who are even slightly interested in synthetic biology can be introduced to it. Using a Japanese social networking service called “note,” we published 27 articles. Some of these were translated into English, and we published articles with the same content on the “notion” platform.

The articles summarized the following topics. We explained the history of synthetic biology and the fundamental principles of synthetic biology such as standardization and “understanding by making. We also explained the concept and process of biodesign in the context of our project, so that many people can use the article as a reference to shape their own synthetic biology research. For more advanced content, we interviewed a well-known Japanese synthetic biologist to explain his research and his views on synthetic biology. The advanced content was so sophisticated that one of the articles was distributed as a preliminary resource for a workshop on genome ethics held by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) (the equivalent of the National Science Foundation in the U.S.).


3. Publication of Journal on Synthetic Biology

▶ By deliberately choosing to sell the publication in print media, we were able to reach a wide range of people with diverse backgrounds and expand the scope of synthetic biology.

Since all of our members are high school students, we thought it would be better to collaborate with university students to educate the older generation (university students and adults). We collaborated with iGEM teams such as iGEM TokyoTech and iGEM Waseda to produce a journal on synthetic biology. This journal covers synthetic biology and iGEM, from general information to specialized information like wet and dry lab.

In order to reach a wider audience, instead of making it free access, we decided to sell the magazine at Comic Market, the world’s largest coterie magazine market.

At Comic Market, we prepared 10 copies of the magazine, which were successfully sold out. This activity helped spread the word about synthetic biology.

Almost all of the people who bought the magazine were older than us, so we learned that a thoughtful compilation of synthetic biology content can attract many people regardless of age.

Based on this experience, we also organized an event to promote synthetic biology to adults (20-60 years old). For details, please refer to section 10.


4. Social Media Management

▶ By utilizing YouTube, we have made difficult-to-understand concepts, specialized content, and technical content more accessible to people of various backgrounds.

There are many things that cannot be understood through text alone. To make it easier to understand for a wider audience, we have uploaded five videos about synthetic biology and our project on YouTube. In addition to the lecture-style videos that discuss the basic ideas of synthetic biology and our famous project, we have also created videos on specific experimental techniques that can be reproduced by those who have no experience in the field. The “Dry” videos show how to make primers.

These videos were made along with slideshows created by the members, and we tried to make the slides easy to understand for a wide range of viewers of all ages. In addition to the visual slideshows, we also made sure that the narration was easy to understand so that the information could be conveyed more easily through the ears.




Link to access our YouTube video:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgXwNU2hsVeftXi9SzCPPeQ

Download link for the materials used: Fundamentals of Synthetic Biology (Japanese)

▶ This resource conveys information from the fundamental principles of synthetic biology of “understanding by making”, to the mammoth restoration projects of George Church and his colleagues. It is an unparalleled resource for promoting synthetic biology.

5. Project 1 for Junior High and High School Students

▶ The interactive teaching ensured that the middle and high school students improved their knowledge of synthetic biology. They acquired the appropriate knowledge to be able to share synthetic biology with other people.

Publishing articles and running a social networking site were one-way exchange, and this made it difficult to grasp the needs of people to participate and contribute to synthetic biology. Our past activities made us realize the importance of interactive education.

We began by teaching a class on synthetic biology to people of our generation. We explained the fundamental concepts and well-known projects in synthetic biology to students with basic knowledge of biology. The format of the class was not lecture-like, but rather interactive, involving active discussion with the students.

First, we taught a class to high school students. We always conducted a questionnaire before and after the class. By comparing the results and utilizing feedback, we designed each class to deepen the students’ understanding of synthetic biology. In the survey conducted before a class, approximately 50% of the students were familiar with the term “synthetic biology,” and approximately 87% were familiar with the term “biotechnology/genetic engineering”. When participants were asked to describe synthetic biology in the survey conducted after a class, the following responses were obtained:


There was a clear improvement in knowledge after the class. In addition, by giving lectures to students who had never heard of synthetic biology, we were able to convey our knowledge of synthetic biology to a wider audience. Students commented that the lectures were interesting and useful because of their relevance to many fields, and that we were able to stimulate their interest in synthetic biology. This shows that our educational activities were thoughtfully implemented.


Download link for the materials used:Journey to Synthetic Biology (Japanese)

▶ This is the most accurate and accessible answer to the simplest question in the audience’s mind: “What is synthetic biology?” It easily communicates the basic concepts of synthetic biology as well as more advanced topics to those who do not have a specialized knowledge of the subject.

6. Project 1 for Elementary Students

▶It was an opportunity for children that has almost never heard of genetic engineering and synthetic biology, to gain new knowledge that they do not learn in their regular classes.

We realized that the awareness of synthetic biology in Japan is lower than we had expected after the project targeting junior and senior high school students. We believe that correct recognition of synthetic biology from an early age will promote the spread of synthetic biology and encourage more people to participate in synthetic biology.

Therefore, we decided to conduct a project targeting elementary school students. However, since it is not easy to conduct educational activities for elementary school students in a correct and easy-to-understand manner with limited experience in educational activities, we decided to conduct a project for elementary school students through an organization that operates a small-group interactive online educational platform called “Sucolab”. We created the lessons with an advisor with extensive experience in science communication activities. By adding more visual information, more detailed explanations, and a more structured slide presentation, we were able to create a lesson that was easy for elementary school students.

The first half of the class was designed to explain biological knowledge, and the second half was designed to allow participants to use the knowledge they gained to design new organisms as an output. Perhaps because the class was targeted at upper elementary school students, many of the ideas that emerged used humans as the basis. Discussions were held on what kind of organisms we should obtain genetic information from, in order to get faster legs or better eyesight. We confirmed that the concept of genetic information as “parts” was well conveyed.

We surveyed participants twice, before and after the project, using a Google form. We compared the results of these two surveys to determine the participant’s level of understanding. We also reflected on the feedback obtained from the post-program responses in the next project. For example, we received a lot of feedback on the topic of mental illness, so we tried to communicate with participants on these topics in the 8th and 9th Education sessions. Before the project, almost all participants did not know the term “synthetic biology,” but after the project, we were able to promote a very accurate understanding, as we received responses such as “synthetic biology is a branch of biology that deals with designing life or functions of life”. The post-planning survey also showed an improvement in basic knowledge of DNA and synthetic biology.

Download link for the materials used:https://static.igem.wiki/teams/4955/wiki/education/education-2.pdf

▶ This material has been designed so that even elementary school students can understand synthetic biology, such as by increasing the amount of visual information and avoiding too much abstraction.

7. Project 2 for Elementary Students

▶ By conducting a face-to-face workshop, we were able to provide a new opportunity for children to develop an interest in synthetic biology.

Elementary school students have extremely limited opportunities to come into contact with synthetic biology, and since the content is often difficult to understand, they cannot comprehend it simply by attending a lecture. After explaining what microorganisms are, we told the students that they could assemble their own microorganisms, and conducted a workshop in which the students were asked to think about what kind of microorganisms (organisms) they would like to create and draw a picture of them. In addition, we visited a nearby elementary school in advance, to discuss how the project could be related to the topic that elementary school students are currently learning about in their science classes, as well as to distribute flyers to students. By collaborating with the elementary school in the preparation stage, we could implement a thoughtful workshop.




As a result, many ideas were proposed by the elementary school students, such as “a mythical animal made by combining various animals” and “a microorganism that eats garbage after a crafting class and turns it into a pleasant aroma”. Some students commented, “I hope these creatures can be realized after careful consideration of the risks involved,” and the event provided a good opportunity for elementary school students to enjoy themselves and deepen their knowledge of synthetic biology.

8. Project 2 for Junior High and High School Students

▶In Japanese junior high and high schools, there is no opportunity to conduct molecular biological experiments that form the basis of synthetic biology. Conducting experiments offered a new opportunity to spread awareness of synthetic biology.

There are many things you can’t understand unless you try your hand at it. In order to provide more “new knowledge/opportunities/tools” and interactive dialogue, we held a laboratory class on the basic techniques used in synthetic biology. We collaborated with Leave a Nest Co., Ltd., a well-known educational company for middle and high school students, to make the event more interesting. Through using PCR and electrophoresis to determine the type of aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) in hair samples, we conveyed the familiarity of genetic tests. During the waiting time for the experiment, we also gave a lecture on synthetic biology, explaining its relevance to the experiments conducted at the event.

We also explained the personal information that genomes contain, and discussions were held on how to handle such information ethically and correctly. This way, we strived to make people aware of synthetic biology in a correct manner.

When we asked participants after the project about their understanding of synthetic biology, we received the following responses:


There was no fee to participate in this lecture. This made it possible for a wide range of people to participate.

The slides used are as follows.

Download link for the materials used



▶ These slides and protocols not only allow to convey the basics of synthetic biology, but also to reproduce the genetic testing experiments we have designed. The slides include information on how to use micropipettes, micropipettes for PCR, and other experiments, as well as basic synthetic biology information.



9. Project 3 for Junior High and High School Students

▶ Transforming GFP into E. coli. The simplest and most fundamental experiments in synthetic biology provided a new opportunity to get a taste of what synthetic biologists do every day.

What is synthetic biology? In doing our own experiments, we realized that what we offered in the previous genetic testing class was an education in Biology and not enough to give students an understanding of Synthetic Biology. Therefore, we offered an experimental workshop with content closer to Synthetic Biology. As in the previous workshop, this project was also conducted jointly with Leave a Nest Co., Ltd. In this workshop, we introduced a plasmid containing a gene encoding GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein) into E. coli and observed the expression of GFP. Instead of a conventional one-way lecture, we carried out the project through an interactive dialogue with the participants about the meaning of the experimental manipulations and predictions of the results. We believed that a lot of dialogue with the participants would improve their understanding of the experiments, and in fact, many participants showed a deeper understanding of synthetic biology in the post-program form.

In this project, we were able to provide participants with more detailed information about the concepts and objectives of gene transfer, transformation, and other aspects of synthetic biology compared to the previous project. We also gave an overview of our project and the Cartagena method, and discussed how genetically modified organisms created using synthetic biology will be implemented in society in the future. In this way, we were able to educate the participants on the ethical aspects of synthetic biology more closely related to synthetic biology than in previous education sessions.

In addition, in the previous project, we were not able to deepen participants’ understanding of the project only through lectures on the day of the event. We thought it was necessary to deepen participants’ understanding of the experimental content in order for them to become more interested in synthetic biology, so we distributed a textbook to participants one week prior to the event for their advanced study. This helped to deepen participants’ understanding of the project.

As before, we asked participants about their understanding of synthetic biology after the project and received the following responses:


There was no fee to participate in this lecture. This made it possible for a wide range of people to participate.

Download link for the materials used

Pre-study materials:



▶ The slides, protocol, and pre-study materials make it easy for anyone to reproduce our experiment. The slides include instructions on how to use the micropipettes and transformations, as well as discussion material on the Cartagena method.



10. Project for Adults

▶ In Japan, most discussions of new technologies take place in Tokyo, and information is somewhat slow to reach the local communities. We have correctly communicated synthetic biology to people in the community who have never been exposed to synthetic biology.

While it is possible to spread the word about synthetic biology to interested middle and high school students and adults, it is difficult to reach out to those who have no opportunity or interest in the field. This time, we spoke at a lecture at a local university focusing on “what local high school students are doing now,” and reached out to a wide age range of people (13-74) with less than 50% awareness of synthetic biology. We spoke about our efforts and what synthetic biology is. The most impressive comment from the audience was that “the image of the word ‘genetic modification’ has changed”. We want to continue to spread the correct knowledge of synthetic biology.

▶ We have improved awareness about depression in anticipation of a future in which our project is implemented in society. ​​Even if our project, an innovative self-control measure against depression is implemented, if there is no awareness that depression is a serious problem, the impact of this project on society will be very low.

In addition to the low rate of psychiatric visits as a real problem in Japan, our survey on awareness of depression and mental illness among the general public clearly shows that Japanese people have low levels of knowledge regarding depression.

Therefore, we conducted educational activities not only on synthetic biology but also on psychiatric disorders in order to lead to the implementation of this project with stronger impact in the future. Although it was a modest activity, we are confident that it was a step toward the future availability of the products that this project aimed to create.

Based on our experience in education activities, we are now offering online classes using the online education platform “Sucolab”. The course titled “What is Mental Illness?” was held for elementary and junior high school students. By presenting data and explaining actual cases and treatment methods in the class, the lecturers were able to remove the prejudices (such as mental illnesses are rare, mental illness only suffer people with weak minds, there is no treatment) that tend to be held against mental illnesses.

In addition, we were able to provide education to a wider audience by dividing the content of the class into two separate videos and posting them on YouTube. A Google form was sent to participants asking about their image of depression. After the class, participants were also asked to respond to a separate form, and a comparison of the two forms showed that they were less prejudiced against mental illness after attending the class.

Download link for the materials used:


13. Project for the Visually Impaired

▶ We identified and approached the segments of the population in Japan with the highest barriers to accessing science. In order to properly disseminate synthetic biology to a wider audience, we considered and researched those who have particular difficulties in participating in science. We speculated that the visually impaired were the most likely. To make science accessible to the visually impaired, we created a Braille translation of the book and donated it to the library for semi-permanent use.