People died from malaria since the beginning of this year.
Don't you think it is time for a change?
360000 People died from malaria this year
projected based on WHO World Malaria Report 20171
Despite joined investments of over 2 billion dollars each year, malaria continues to be one of humanity’s biggest burdens1. Armies of scientists, engineers and volunteers combine their efforts to reduce malaria burden each year, but as their quest continues, their goal remains ever out of reach. Why is that?
In most industrialized countries malaria was eliminated or nearly eliminated. Present infrastructure and constant access to medical care and preventive measures allows efficient containment and limits disease spread. However, in developing countries, malaria elimination remains a challenge.
Synthetic Biology for a future without malaria
Currently used mosquito traps rely on a lure-and-kill mechanism. Common baits are CO2 or synthetic attractants. All these substances are volatile and quickly depleted, lacking sustainability in regions that have no constant access to preventive measures. Here we present a novel malaria prevention method that is based on synthetic biology. We take advantage of living bacteria steadily producing both bait and an insecticide readily available at any time.
The cyanobacteria S. elongates provides nutrients to sustain an E. coli co-culture. E. coli is engineered to produce odour baits and an insect toxin from the black scorpion, acting as both attractant and killing mechanism for malaria mosquitoes. To maintain a stable culture over extended periods of time, multiple soft growth inhibition mechanisms are employed, limiting E. coli growth instead of killing surplus bacteria, ensuring stability over extended periods of time.
Every environmental synthetic biology applications faces the problems of stability and containment.
Bacteria have a straight forward evolutional strategy: Grow faster than you die. This biology becomes a pitfall for elaborate systems designed to function well for a long time without maintenance. Environmental synthetic biology applications are practically impossible to implement outside of the laboratory.
Biosafety is best ensured by not releasing any GMO, how safe by design it may be. We solved both problems.
Cyanobacteria such as S. elongatus convert CO2 into glucose using sunlight as energy source. As part of our collaboration with iGEM Düsseldorf, we employ a spatially divided co-culture of S. elongatus engineered to secrete glucose and our E. coli to enable sustainable production of lure molecules and insecticides over extended periods of time.Visit Düsseldorf
For improved producibility, the S.H.I.E.L.D. is composed of multiple interlocking parts. To protect the trap microenvironment and to ensure biosafety, all contact surfaces are sealed using durable NDR-70 sealing rings. Despite an easy technology, this exceeds common biosafety standards for storage and shipment of genetically engineered organisms.Learn more
A self-healing Polyammonium salt (PAS) hydrogel acts as reservoir for odour bait molecules and insecticides, and provides a surface for mosquitoes to land on. Bait molecules evaporate evenly from the surface of the gel. Mosquitoes take up the insecticide from here. If too much water evaporates from the S.H.I.E.L.D., the gel acts as a protective layer to prevent the bacteria culture from drying out. As soon as new water is taken up, the gel returns to its tasks.Learn more
Biosafety and culture separation
A commercially available nano filter is sufficient to keep everything where it belongs. It separates the cyanobacteria compartment from the E. coli compartment underneath, as well as the encased genetically modified organisms from outside, and keeps the S.H.I.E.L.D. free of contaminations. Its simple production makes it economically fit for its task, contributing to the application’s industrial scalability.Learn more
To maintain an even distribution of cells, we employ the novel 3D gel-embedded culture developed by iGEM Eindhoven. E coli, which lifts the heavy-duty synthetic biology, is embedded in a dextran-based gel and kept stable for unlimited time. This way, no sedimentation takes place, and the gel prevents E. coli from dividing on top of our synthetic biology growth inhibition, ensuring maximum sustainability.Visit iGEM Eindhoven