‘To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life.’
This is Wageningen University & Research's mission. We are a research institution that focuses on the domain ‘healthy food and living conditions’. We do not just develop top-quality expertise; we also help translate our knowledge into practice worldwide. Support our projects and contribute to the quality of life.
This year 12 motivated Wageningen UR students are participating in the iGEM competition. iGEM stands for International Genetically Engineered Machine. Student teams from all over the world will design a biological system which solves a current issue. Our goal is to set down a clever project with which we can win the iGEM competition. Before telling how the design of our biological system looks like, let us explain you what the colony collapse disorder is.
The colony collapse disorder is the severe decline in bee colony health. It is one of today’s major problems, because the bees play an important role in fertilizing our crops and other plants. While this problem has multiple causes, one of the major drivers is the mite Varroa destructor. This parasitic mite infests beehives, feeds on bees and their larvae and transmits pathogens, such as the deformed wing virus. Currently, the mite is combated through the use of organic acids and essential oils. These current treatments have their disadvantages, such as their sensitive dosage. A low dosage doesn’t kill enough mites and therefore triggers resistance, while a high dosage will harm honeybees as well.
Our aim is to design a biological system that will safely and reliably kill mites while being harmless to both bees and beekeepers. The system, which has been dubbed Bee T, will be designed in Escherichia coli that in the presence of mites is going to produce a toxin that specifically target the mite. The toxin we want the E. coli to produce is a so called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) toxin. Bt toxins are known for their high specify towards certain insect species. The Bt producing E.coli will be restricted to the hive through a light-induced lysis switch and through incorporation of synthetic amino acids in essential proteins. These two measures will prevent it from spreading into the environment. A major advantage of the system is that it is highly modular and the incorporated Bt toxin can be changed into another one to combat other insect pests.
To test and build our system, we will need lab equipment and materials. Wageningen UR has supplied us with laboratory space and a starting capital so we could start working on our project and register for the competition. However, we will need a budget of €30.000,- to cover additional costs. Therefore, we are looking for sponsors to support our project. A part of the team is already hard at work in the lab and we love to continue this before we run out of any materials.
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