UR igem wiki


  • Overview
  • The process of creating a non-invasive method for the detection of endometriosis extends to providing the patients and testing clinics with an affordable and uncomplicated process. For the patient, this process starts with the collection of the menstrual blood sample, includes considering transportation of the sample, the sanitization of the collection tool, and possibly considers the use of a therapeutic tool through a vaginal ring. For the clinic, this process means receiving the menstrual blood sample, being able to centrifuge it, and then run it a comprehensive lateral flow assay.
    The COVID-19 pandemic produced a lot of challenges for our hardware team. We had to follow limiting at home safety regulations set by the University of Rochester’s Environmental Health and Safety office as well as ones set by our departments. Although these restrictions hindered our ability to build some of our models, the unique circumstances of this year increased our creativity and enabled us to branch out our efforts since we had to come up with clever ways to design and test our models. This included using Lego building blocks to substitute for the lack of access to 3D printers and power tools, using alternative connections instead of soldering, and prototyping using LEDs instead of UV-C lights.
    Our final results were divided into four main subcategories:
    1. Menstrual blood collection and Menstrual cup sterilization
    2. Lateral Flow Assay Imaging Station
    3. DIY lab equipment
    4. Therapeutics

  • Menstrual blood collection and Sterilization
  • Endo-cup

    Our diagnostic product for endometriosis is a non-invasive test panel that diagnoses endometriosis by measuring the concentrations of biomarkers in menstrual blood. In order to allow for easy collection, our team proposed to use a menstrual cup, which is a small silicone cup positioned in the vaginal canal during menstruation, for collecting samples. Based on an interview with DivaCup, the current menstrual cup design has not significantly changed since its invention in the 1980s and very little research has been done to prove the functionality of the current design.
    Endometriosis causes thickening of the vaginal wall and pelvic muscle fatigue (Natalie Yang, et al),(Ana Paula Santos Dos, et al, 2016). After talking with Dr. Gubbles, we realized that this causes conventional menstrual cups to be painful to endometriosis patients. Softer cups tend to be more comfortable for women with weaker vaginal muscles because they apply less pressure (Put A Cup In It). Therefore, we created a model of the pressure exerted on the vagina by the menstrual cup to study the effect of various cup designs.


    As our team approached stakeholders including gynecologists, menstrual cup manufactures, and patients, we saw the need for cleaning menstrual cups when there is limited access to water, and when boiling water is not an option. Using the cup without proper cleaning would have a strong odor, with the potential of the individual developing infections. Furthermore, using a UV sterilization method could reduce the amount of water usage needed during cleaning. Therefore, our team decided to pursue the design of a UV sterilization chamber to improve sustainability and provide an alternative to the existing cleaning method.
    Using a UV sterilization method could increase access to menstrual cups for patients and consumers in areas without proper access to clean water whether permanent or temporary (i.e: camping). We also learned that it might be a good alternative for consumers with access to water because the usual boiling method requires a much longer period of time to make sure the cup is clean and using a UV sterilizer that can remove the bacteria more efficiently from the cup between uses compared to washing it using soap (Mitchell, M. A., et al., 2015). Additionally, using a UV sterilizer can reduce the risk of having TSS which is normally rare, but we work to further decrease this risk (Mitchell, M. A., et al., 2015). While the team has designed a draft model for the sterilizer we are taking into consideration the comments we received from the menstrual cup company Diva Cares concerning alternatively using UVC light (less than 280nm wavelength) instead of using the full UV range. The main reason to use UVC instead of regular UVA or UVB is its weaker ability to penetrate the skin and can Another point we are currently on is making our UV sterilizer collapsable to make it more portable as the current sterilizer on the market are still relatively too large to be carried away.

  • Lateral Flow Assay Imaging Station
  • Our wet lab team developed a lateral flow assay (LFA) using gold nanoparticles (GNPs) to create a sensitive point of care diagnostic. This assay produces a colorimetric signal that our hardware team was then tasked to quantify.
    Our LFA is a paper-based assay for the detection and quantification of the biomarkers of endometriosis found in menstrual blood. The detecting device has a lateral flow membrane as the base that allows the sample to be soaked and flow from one end to the other. As the sample flows through the membrane, the biomarker contained in the sample will be specially bound to antibodies that are conjugated to the GNP. These biomarkers are then bound to a second immobilized antibody on the test line, whereas free gold-conjugated antibodies can travel through the test line and be bound to the control line. Binding of the biomarkers on the test line together with the cold-conjugated antibodies will cause a color change of the line. Therefore, positive results will have a color change in both the test line and the control line, whereas negative results will only have a color change in the control line but not the test line. This color change can then be detected and semi-quantified using our smartphone-based platform.

  • DIY lab equipment
  • Centrifuge

    A centrifuge is a basic equipment for most biological experiments, however, a benchtop centrifuge tends to be expensive for a clinic that does not have a regular need for it, ranging from $1000 to $5000. Our project does not require all the features or precisions that come with the expensive centrifuge models. As such, our 'Do it yourself" (DIY) centrifuge will decrease the cost, eliminate non-relevant features, and will make such equipment easily available for clinics that do not normally have access to centrifuges. This encapsulates laboratories and clinics in more impoverished areas and teams with limited budgets. Our centrifuge design also contains a number of recycled items that are easily found around a house, further increasing its sustainability.
    Creative methods of building centrifuges have emerged in the past few years. However, these DIY centrifuges lacked proper control of the speed. Previous models used potentiometer knobs instead of input number pads which decreased the accuracy and or alternatively increased time needed to reach the desired value. Our centrifuge is also meant to be more accessible, as all its features will take color blindness into consideration and utilize more visual cues for the hearing impaired. Finally, our centrifuge has two different screens, one being the LCD screen which would provide instructions and the information about the rpm, and another 4 digits, 7 segment display screen to provide a timer (which many DIY centrifuges lack). We are also trying to improve the 3D printing design for the sample holder for the centrifuge.

  • Therapeutics (Vaginal Ring)
  • Inspired by the clinical trials that Ferring Pharmaceuticals are performing. The RAQUEL study is ‘Randomized Trial Assessing Quinagolide Vaginal Ring for Endometriosis-related Pain’. The study is a randomized, double-blind, Phase II clinical trial that is meant to evaluate the efficacy of quinagolide on the reduction of moderate to severe endometriosis-related pain compared to placebo. This project was introduced to us by Dr. Idhaliz Flores, who mentioned that targeted methods of drug delivery for endometriosis could be beneficial over current, generalized hormone treatment options.
    The vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring constructed from plastic. The ring can be inserted into the vagina to work as a drug delivery method to provide a constant supply of therapeutic to the vaginal canal. This is typically used as a contraceptive method as it has an advantage over pills since it only needs to be used once a month. As such, we thought this provided a good drug delivery method for endometriosis as hormone treatments could be localized to the reproductive organs.
    While we believe that this would be a very therapeutic method, we chose not to continue with the procedure of designing our own vaginal ring.

  • References
  • Bispo, A. P., Ploger, C., Loureiro, A. F., Sato, H., Kolpeman, A., Girão, M. J., & Schor, E. (2016). Assessment of pelvic floor muscles in women with deep endometriosis. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 294(3), 519-523. doi:10.1007/s00404-016-4025-x

    Put A Cup In It. (2019, October 07). Menstrual Cup Firmness Guide. Retrieved from

    Yang, N. (n.d.). Endometriosis: Radiology Reference Article. Retrieved from

    Mitchell, M. A., Bisch, S., Arntfield, S., & Hosseini-Moghaddam, S. M. (2015). A confirmed case of toxic shock syndrome associated with the use of a menstrual cup. Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology, 26.