Team:Rheda Bielefeld/Description


How to use an Interpollen test strip if construction was finished

The team doing intensive research

Our Project

This text gives you a brief overview of the idea [1]
and the methods [2] used in our project given in our abstract. We will explain to you what we did in the context of our project and hereby why we decided to focus on this research.

When our team met at the very first time, the first thing we did was to brainstorm about different project ideas. Because of the nearly infinite amount of various options and possibilities of genetic engineering, we realized that there were so many good ideas we could choose. Our ideas reached from detecting Periodontitis, an infection causing bleeding gums, to help people suffering from Diabetes.
But since our knowledge and experience concerning genetic engineering in practice limited the choice of possible project ideas to enforce, we decided to develop something which is simple and short.

As generally known, pollen are a farinaceous substance consisting of pollen cores and made in the stamens of plants. In the time of late February to August, pollen are spread in the air wherever trees, grasses, and plants grow and bloom.
This has both bright and dark sides: pollen make other plants and flowers bloom and fields get colorful, but on the other hand, millions of people suffer from pollen because they are allergic to them.
In Germany alone, over 20 million people are being allergic to a large number of different substances, for example, dust, hairs of various pets and some sorts of food. It only makes sense to avoid those substances - but how to avoid pollen in times where you can find pollen everywhere in the air? To do that, you can do two things: You can either use antiallergic medicine turning down the activity of the immune system and leads to a wide weaker reaction of allergic substances or to just stay at home to prevent you to get a headache or a sniff. But using these medicines makes it nearly impossible to go to school or to work and this kind of "drugs" can be very expensive. From this situation, we hoped to start with the idea: a test strip using methods of genetic analyzing and assays [3] which scans the air to detect the current amount of spread pollen in the air. This strip would show you which sorts of pollen and how much of these are flying around.

Since this is our very first project in the iGEM competition, our research started with collecting information about the structure of animal and plant cells and with the construction of E. coli. To work with the genetic material, we also learned to get along with the methods of a PCR [4] and a gel electrophoresis in context to the extraction of DNA. After spending some time into practice, the effort paid off: we were able to extract DNA from pollen. First, after looking at the pollen under the microscope, we tried to break the shell of the pollen core with liquid nitrogen and with pectinases. The shell of pollen consists of pectin, so we searched for methods to decompose pectin. Therefore pectinases, from the mushroom Aspergillus niger, can be used. We have fulfilled our research up to this point. We searched for methods of a Pectin Assay and have been successful with decomposing pectin with pectinases.

In fact, a cellulose assay is also needed for a complete analysis of the DNA of pollen, but because we were struggling with having too little time, we were unable to actually perform a cellulose assay. Because of this, we will mention the cellulose assay in an article; we will mention how this experiment looks like in theory without actually having made the experience with it.

We have tried to get in touch with various scientists, beekeepers, and various organizations like the German Association of Fruit Juice. Unfortunately, most of them either were not interested in cooperating or were unable to bring our research forward, but we still got some answers to our requests from some scientists. More information about this topic can be found in our article about Human Practices.

We also participated in the InterLab Study. For more information, read our article about the Interlab Study.

Even though we were unable to start the final construction of the test strip, we hope that our idea can be used and improved in the near future by scientists or even be continued by another iGEM using our results as a base for their following research. Our greatest hope is that somebody will be able to build the test stripe and that the strip can be sold in public.