NitroBLAST - iGEM TU Delft 2024

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from €7,000 (0%)

The international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) is the largest international competition in synthetic biology. iGEM gives students the opportunity to come up with novel solutions for global challenges. With over 7000 participants from all over the world, iGEM teams work inside and outside the lab, creating sophisticated projects that strive to create a positive contribution to their communities and the world.

The Netherlands has been facing a nitrogen crisis for several years. This crisis is largely attributed to the agriculture sector, with over 80% of ammonia emissions coming from manure  and chemical fertilizers. Synthetic fertilizer production alone is also the cause of nearly 2% of global CO2 emissions. In addition to water pollution by leakage of nitrate, air pollution due to the conversion to N2O leads to a global greenhouse effect equivalent to 10% of that caused by the increase in atmospheric CO2. Over-fertilization and its direct and indirect impact on the environment make agriculture the second leading contributor to short-term increases in global surface temperature.

The Nature publication by Coale et al. examines UCYN-A, a cyanobacterial species capable of converting N2 into organic nitrogen, and its relationship with the marine algae Braarudosphaera bigelowii (B. bigelowii). It has already been established that UCYN-A and B. bigelowii have a symbiotic relationship, where B. bigelowii functions as a so-called host, and has taken up the UCYN-A bacteria into its cell in a process known as endosymbiosis. The symbiont, UCYN-A, fixes nitrogen for the host whereas B. bigelowii supplies organic carbon and a conducive living environment. This paper proved that UCYN-A is not a common symbiont, but has instead evolved into a eukaryotic organelle for nitrogen fixation, termed the "nitroplast".

The TU Delft iGEM team of 2024 aims with its project, NitroBLAST to create a suitable environment for UCYN-A nitroplast in a model organism, thereby transplanting an organelle in the model organism giving it nitrogen fixation abilities. Through this, we aim to make a first step towards introducing nitroplasts into crops. This would:

  • Reduce the reliance on synthetic fertilizers, thereby lowering the environmental impact of their production and use.
  • Satisfy the growing demand for feed crops, helping to reduce famine.
  • Decrease farm’s operating costs by reducing the need to purchase fertilizers.

Over the next few months, we are working on realizing our project, and will present it at the iGEM grand jamboree in Paris, between the 23-26 of October. For this, we need to raise funds for the lab work, participation in the competition and outreach. Help us make a global impact through the power of synthetic biology and represent the innovative nature of our university in this competition!

P.S. Rewards are accumulative (e.g. if you donate 25€, you also get the rewards for 15€ and 20€). Physical rewards are only shipped within the Netherlands.