Integrating Paratransgenesis
and SynBio to eradicate
vector-borne diseases

Brazil is a tropical country with a huge amount of vector-borne diseases. Moreover, zika, malaria, chikungunya, dengue and much more cause suffering and disabilities worldwide. For a long time we’ve been fighting against these diseases using traditional strategies, with limited success. BioTROJAN provides a solution to this problem, integrating Synthetic Biology to a brand new application: Paratransgenesis!

Paratransgenesis is the genetic modification of the microbiota of an insect/vector aiming at blocking the cycle of vector-borne pathogens. Diseases as diverse as Chagas’, Sleeping Sickness, Malaria and Dengue have been targeted previously, using bacterias that live inside the vectors as Trojan horses. These trojan-horse bacteria are modified to carry antiparasites (effectors) as weapons. Until now, these systems have only focus on constitutive expression. Thus, complexities such as pathogen detection and containment (safety) mechanisms have never been adressed before.

Here, we present the fusion of paratransgenesis and synthetic biology.

This meta-project generates a framework for future iGEM teams and research groups to tackle vector borne diseases. It enables the making of robust and safe systems for paratransgenesis through the implementation of regulated promoters, rationally designed effectors and kill-switch safety circuits. Moreover it creates intellectual challenges for the modelling and design of fine tuned, controlled genetic circuits and chassis populations, with lots of room for improvements. And raises questions about biosafety and impact in the society. The perfect combination for an iGEM project!

Taking it all into consideration, we devised a theoretical, conceptual framework for future teams to build upon. At the same time, we tested those principles actively in the lab, using a chassis never used before in iGEM, Pantoea agglomerans . Our wet and dry lab results shows proof of concept of how paratransgenesis can be readily integrated in a project. You can check the sum off our efforts in our medal criteria page :).

Also, get to know us (and get in contact with us!) in our team description, take a look at our parts and check our outreach to the community in our Human Practices . Ah, and don't forget to see the creative approaches we developed in our InterLab project, developing cheaper, DIY ways of measuring promoter efficiency. After all, synthetic biology has to be for all!

Finally, this project was made for you. Creating a world free of vector-borne diseases is an enormous challenge, but the more than 5000 ingenious iGEM participants every year can choose to make a difference. Pick a disease, pick a chassis, develop beautiful models and circuits and make your own bacterial BioTrojan horse!

Let’s work together to end these treacherous diseases!


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