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Trial at the Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf

Germany: Grapefruit used to fight against malaria

Once again this year, selected students in different semesters and from different majors of the Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf (HHU) have come together to participate in the international iGEM-competition. They are collaborating with the University of Cologne. The team of bachelor and masters students wants to help to find a mosquito repellent which is affordable in poorer countries as well this year. A substance made from grapefruits may play an important role in that.

Malaria and other illnesses which are transmitted by mosquitos are affecting more than three billion people worldwide. Chemical measures which are used to protect humans from bites are either too expensive or can cause serious health issues. 


iGEM team member at the laboratory. The team consists of students from different majors at the HHU and the University of Cologne. (images: HHU / Hendrik Cooper)

For some time now, a certain molecule has been gaining more and more importance in the fight against malaria. It is very effectively repelling mosquitos and ticks and it is environmentally friendly and harmless to humans: it is called Nootkaton. This substance is found in the skin of the grapefruit and is the reason for the characteristic smell of it. What is stopping the mass production of this nice smelling repellent is the cost: Nootkaton has to be won from the actual fruit skin, where it only is available in limited amounts. A biotechnological production is currently not possible, since the substance is not only killing mosquitos but also the micro organisms needed for the synthesis, before they are able to produce significant amounts.

In this year's iGEM-project, the team of students from HHU and the University of Cologne, are trying to integrate an artificial compartment of micro organisms in which the production of Nootkaton can proceed without having an influence on the life cycle of the cells.

"The production of many other substances is having the same problems as the nootkaton," says René Inckemann, student at the HHU and leader of the team. "We see a lot of potential for the use of our artificial component in other sectors as well, for example the production of Taxol, which is used to fight cancer."

Source: HHU

Publication date: 9/1/2017


 


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