Heatshockers win COSIMA 2018

We took part at the Competition of Students in Microsystems Applications COSIMA 2018.
It all started with the application and preparation for this competition. We wanted to prove that we can develop something extraordinary and unique. Something important. Our first steps were hard. From theory to practical implemantation was much to do. One of our biggest challenges was the biology behind our product but thankfully we had the support of our professors(Prof. Dr. Oliver Hayden) and biologists of the TranslaTUM (special thanks to Prof. Dr. Gabriele Multhoff and Caroline Werner).
With this support and the possibility to work at a laboratory in the TranslaTUM we could finally work on our own product. We worked hard to get a prove of concept.
Finally, we managed to present our mockup at the Electronica (trade fair) Munic 2018. There, we had the opportunity to give some insights into our work to a huge audience and got in contact with a lot of interesting and interested people. In the final presentation, we explained our concept to the jury and convinced them that our idea is outstanding. Now, we are very happy to announce our first place at the competition. Hence, we qualified to take part in the international competition iCAN from June 23rd to 27th 2019.

Interview with Caroline Werner

HS Hello Caroline.

Caroline Hello Heatshockers. You can call me Caro.

HS Okay. Hi Caro.

Caro Hi Heatshockers.

HS Can you introduce yourself?

Caro Yes, of course. My name is Caroline Werner, I have a masters of science degree in molecular biology and graduated from the Technical University of Munich in the AG Multhoff for tumor imaging / radio oncology / immune therapy.

HS What do you work on and how did you get there?

Caro  I am working on a technique, which can detect a protein from a cancer cell. For that, you simply need a blood sample of a patient and can sense with the help of antibodies the amount of protein in the blood. We use this as a biomarker. that helps you to predict the disease and detect an early recurrences.

It has been shown in cancer cells, the Heat Shock protein 70, alias Hsp70, is significantly expressed. The amount of that protein correlates with the aggressiveness of the tumor and therefore with the ability to resist therapy. We developed an antibody which detects that protein. With that I can establish a diagnostic tool to reliable measure Hsp70 and such detect cancer early and to monitor therapy.

HS  Interesting! How exactly is a cancerous cell different to a healthy cell?

Caro A cancerous cell develops by mutation of the genes. In contrast to a healthy cell, a cancerous cell does not perform induced cell death. Instead, the cells split multiple times and share the mutations with their daughter cells. Cancerous cells need more oxygen and nutrition because of their uncontrollable growth. Cancer cells are building new blood vessels in bigger tumors, in order to continue their rapid growing. With that, they can even displace healthy cells and infiltrate tissue. Furthermore, cancer cells can detach from the tumor and wander to other places to grow as metastases.

HS What exactly are this mentioned central Heat Shock proteins? What are their tasks in the body?

Caro Heat Shock proteins are helping other proteins in their correct folding and preservation of their secondary structure in stress situations. When cells are exposed to stress, like heat or radiation, Heat Shock proteins are expressed, which either stabilize other proteins or - in case of big damage - help with the dismantling of broken proteins.

HS How are these linked to cancer?

Caro Different from normal healthy cells, cancer cells show even under normal physiological conditions many Hsp70s. It is a defense against cell death. The amount of the protein correlates with the tumor stage, resistance to therapy and gives therefore information about the prognosis. Cancer cells not only have more Hsp70 in the inner part of the cells, but on the cell membrane.

HS What is the state of the art of detecting Heatshock proteins?

Caro There are commercial ELISA-Kits, which detect free Hsp70 with an antibody.

HS How does your method differ from these commercial kits?

Caro We use different antibodies. Cancer cells show Hsp70 not only on their membrane, but actively send huge amounts of Hsp70 in vesicles to the environment. Our lipELISA can - because of the special antibodies - measure liposomal Hsp70 and can be used for diagnostics and therapy monitoring.

HS What is the advantage of your method in comparison to the state of the art?

Caro Our group developed the monoclonal antibody cmHsp70.1, which can detect Hsp70 bound on a membrane. This detection binds specificly to Hsp70 and shows no cross-correlation. In this way, it is absolutely reliable. It binds to an epitope, which cannot be detected by other Hsp70 antibodies.

HS What are you improving with that?

Caro For now, the capture antibody and the detection antibody are produced in big amounts and cleaned, in order to measure specimen from cancer patients and examine their therapy course.

HS Where do you see potential?

Caro The protocol can be more efficient. In the moment, a lipELISA takes around 8 hours, because of long incubation times. Also the amount of needed antibodies can be reduced without decreasing precision.

HS How does the project of the Heatshockers help you?

Caro The value of Hsp70 could be measured fast and efficient. The cut on time would be relevant not only for the physician or biologist, but also for the patient. With faster results the psychological stress for the patient would be less. Furthermore, a measurement with the amount of Hsp70 could be done by the family doctor. The fast measurement enables a routine diagnostic of the Hsp70 value and simplifies the i.e. monitoring of tumor response.

HS Thank you. A final question: are you a fan of Neil Diamond?

Caro Thanks, now I have an earwig…

Young visitors in the Heatshocker Lab

„Teenager do Research“ was the motto on 29. October 2018 in the TranslaTUM – Center for Translational Cancer Research of the Technical University of Munich. The students group “Heatshockers” invited seven interested teenagers for a small guided tour through the research facilities. During that they are given an insight in the daily work in the field of medical research.
In addition to showing the different lab equipment, the young researchers also learned in detail about the project of the Heatshockers. The group, mostly students of electrical engineering, are developing a device to precisely measure certain proteins in the blood. The concentration of the so called “Heatshock proteins” is higher in cancer patients. With the smart combination of biochemical effects and electronics, it is possible to measure that concentration in the blood.
In contrast to the quote “nothing is more practicable then a good theory” the teenagers were allowed to put their hands to use. Within the safety standards and with a close eye of the students, the teenagers had to bring some fluids to shine. Every participant was proven to be a future scientist.