Someone may unknowingly put drugs in your drink, after which you may not be able to think clearly. However, drug use can almost never be proven, because GHB disappears from the blood within 3 hours. The iGEM student team from TU Delft is working on a fast sensor that can detect GHB in drinks. ‘This way the user can be warned and proof of the drying can be provided’, TU Delft has stated.
One of the most commonly used rape drugs is 4-hydroxybutanoic acid, better known as GHB. However, few figures are known about drug use with GHB, especially because this substance can disappear from the body within three hours. In addition, the sedative effects of GHB are very similar to those of alcohol, making it difficult to distinguish between alcohol poisoning and drugging based on symptoms alone. For these two reasons, evidence can almost never be provided of an incident in which someone was drugged with GHB. The iGEM student team is therefore working on a reliable, fast detection method for GHB with their project SPYKE.
The aim of the students is to make a sensor that the user can put in a glass. The moment GHB ends up in the drink, a light in their glass goes on to warn the user. “We hope in this way to protect the user from drugging and to provide them with the evidence with which to file a complaint,” says team member Rebecca Jekel. In addition, the team consults with the police, club and cafe owners, the prosecution, drug victims and health facilities to create a product that meets everyone’s needs.
Last week, the Delft team started a crowdfunding campaign to continue the research and develop their sensor. With this project, the team represents TU Delft at the global iGEM competition in Paris in October this year. Rebecca: “The crowdfunding is necessary to pay for specific parts of the sensor, so that we can deliver the best possible end product. Every little bit helps to make the development of the sensor possible.”
iGEM is an international competition in the field of synthetic biology, the field in which micro-organisms, DNA or proteins are modified and used for new applications. For the competition, more than 350 teams from all over the world try to solve a local social problem. The teams are assessed on various aspects, not only the end product, but also the presentation, market analysis and website.