Saving Bananas from Fungal Infection
Panama disease is a fungal infection caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense that infects Cavendish bananas through its root system, resulting in plant rot and death. The disease is spreading and it is predicted that within the near future, the most widely consumed banana will become extinct. In addition, once soil has been infected by the fungus, it will remain unusable for decades as spores produced by the fungus can germinate after many years, infect the plant, and kill it. As a result, plantations are losing thousands of hectares of land a year. The Cavendish banana serves as a source of food and nutrition to much of the world, and if a solution is not devised quickly, we may lose it forever.
How We’re Taking Action
This year, UMaryland iGEM team seeks to genetically engineer a soil bacterium to produce an antifungal protein that will defend the banana plant against infection. This soil bacterium, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, is a symbiont of the banana plant, which means that it resides in the soil surrounding the banana plant. We hope to engineer this bacteria to produce an antifungal protein, called TLP, that will kill the fungus. By introducing this improved bacterium back into the soil, we hope to protect the banana plant against attack by the fungus. We will be presenting our research and results at the iGEM competition in Boston.
What You Can Do Help
The UMaryland iGEM team is led by its students and has shown exceptional promise with its gold and silver-medal winning projects in previous years. Everything from choosing the research project, to purchasing lab equipment, to engaging the community in our research rests on the shoulders of our undergraduate members. Our team therefore depends upon the generosity and support of the University of Maryland community in order to make our research and outreach goals come to fruition. This year, we are trying to send six of our members to the annual iGEM competition in Boston. Your donations will also allow us to purchase materials for our research and to travel to the competition, where we will present the results of our hard work to an international panel of leaders in the synthetic biology community.
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