Join our 20.000 subscribers and receive the monthly newsletter for free!

RELATED ARTICLES
Mmmm…… delicious, cultured meat

In 2013 the first cultured meat burger was a success. You take some tissue from livestock, purify the cells, give them broth to grow on in the lab…


Belgian scientists in Nature with cancer breakthrough

Scientists Peter Carmeliet and Sarah-Maria Fendt (KU Leuven/VIB) published in the prestigious Nature journal on their fundamental breakthrough in …


Become MSc in Bioinformatics!

Next year, it will be possible to obtain an MSc in Bioinformatics at Ghent University. It is a new interdisciplinary education that joins the forc…

POPULAR TAGS

Making water out of air

Written by DS on in the category Insights with the tags .


A group of students from Ghent University is currently working on an innovative project that tackles the problem of drinking water scarcity. This project, called "Dewpal," will be their entry in The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition. Dewpal involves the designing and printing (using a special filament that allows for binding with external proteins) of a unique 3D shape. The combination of 3D printing and synthetic biology, i.e., functionalized 3D-printed structures, has many potential applications.

Challenge accepted

The iGEM competition is an annual international student competition in synthetic biology organized by the iGEM Foundation, an MIT spin-off. This year, over 250 teams from across the world will participate. From October 27–31, all teams will meet up and present their projects (to each other and to the world) at the giant iGEM Jamboree in Boston, MA.

The idea to participate in this competition came from Wim Van Criekinge, professor in Bioinformatics at Ghent University. As part of a bioinformatics course he teaches, he recruited some students to come up with potential entries for the iGEM competition. After a brainstorming session, three projects were proposed. Soon, other professors (such as Marjan De Mey and Yves Briers), advisors and (PhD) students joined the team. Together, they decided to work on a water collection project, which they named Dewpal.

This is a remarkable multidisciplinary effort by a very motivated team that worked effectively on this ambitious project. Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. - Van Criekinge
 

Inspired by a beetle

Dewpal aims to create a structure that can passively collect water from the air by condensation. Drinking water scarcity is a growing problem in many areas in the world, and most current methods of collecting fresh, drinkable water are very resource intensive. Some tools for passively collecting water from the air already exist, such as, for example, fog catchers. These are big nets, created from a particular type of fiber, which are placed in foggy areas to collect water from the humidity in the air. But Dewpal is different. It combines 3D-modeling and printing to create a certain structure, and then enhances this structure using synthetic biology.

The inspiration for the shape of the structure came from the fogstand beetle, Stenocara gracilipes. This beetle lives in the Namib desert and survives by collecting water from the morning fog on its back. The shape of the beetle’s back is being further optimized to make it easier to collect the water once it condenses and to stack the structures for transportation and upscaling purposes.

The ice nucleation protein will do the trick

An important component of the structure is the filament that will be used for printing: It’s a polylactic acid (PLA) filament that contains biotin. Biotin is a vitamin that can bind very strongly to another protein, streptavidin. This interaction is frequently used in biotechnology: for example, for protein purification. In this project, however, this interaction will be used to bind a certain protein to the structure: ice nucleation protein (INP). INP, a protein that can naturally be found on the surface membrane of some bacteria, acts as a nucleation center for ice crystallization. Some of these bacteria use INP to act as a nucleation center for water droplets rather than ice crystals, which is how clouds are created.

This feature of INP will be used to improve the condensation efficiency of their structure. Therefore, a fusion protein of INP and streptavidin will be created. This fusion protein will be able to bind to the structure using the biotin-streptavidin interaction, leaving INP exposed on the surface to improve water condensation. Another approach being investigated involves the expression of both proteins (streptavidin and INP) on the surface of a bacteria, after which these (killed) bacteria are attached to the structure.

The project is already well underway: The best shape for condensation is being determined, and the most important proteins are being cloned. The first prototypes are currently being printed!

Support this project by crowdfunding!
You can follow the progress of the project on Twitter (@iGem_Ghent), Facebook or the website.

Written by guest columnist Bram Danneels, a master student in bio-informatics at Ghent University.

Read more about: .

RELATED ARTICLES
Mmmm…… delicious, cultured meat

In 2013 the first cultured meat burger was a success. You take some tissue from livestock, purify the cells, give them broth to grow on in the lab…


Belgian scientists in Nature with cancer breakthrough

Scientists Peter Carmeliet and Sarah-Maria Fendt (KU Leuven/VIB) published in the prestigious Nature journal on their fundamental breakthrough in …


Become MSc in Bioinformatics!

Next year, it will be possible to obtain an MSc in Bioinformatics at Ghent University. It is a new interdisciplinary education that joins the forc…

POPULAR TAGS

Sign up to our Mailing List to receive updates
of our latest News, Events & Magazines

KU Leuven Janssen UGent GSK Itera Life Science Flanders.bio Turnstone V-Bio Ventures Biowin XpandInnovation

ABOUT BIOVOX - Sharing Life Sciences Innovations

BioVox showcases interesting life sciences breakthroughs for and from Belgian innovators. Through our partnership with BioCentury we share relevant worldwide innovations and business updates while our local journalists focus on regional highlights. 

Interested to get involved? Get in touch! We are looking for content, writers and partners! Blogs are available for research institutes, companies and freelance experts.

You want to reach out to the biotechnology and life sciences community, targetting selected audiences? Discover our sponsor and publication opportunities as well as tailored packages!

Contact BioVox via news@biovox.be or by completing the contact form.