dsRNA delivery systems to boost RNAi efficacy
GOA (geconcentreerde onderzoekacties/concerted research actions) projects are ambitious, university funded research projects with a duration of 4 to 6 years. Each of these projects has a highly concertated nature and is led by a GOA consortium consisting of experts from different fields. The collaboration between the different groups is key to answer the research question and to achieve scientific breakthroughs.
In the current project, led by the DEBRIEF consortium, the challenges of dsRNA delivery as a function of crop protection are investigated. Climate change has a huge impact on agriculture worldwide. It results in droughts, floods or excessive heat (abiotic factors) or changes in pest insects and diseases (biotic factors) which both result in crop losses.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a promising strategy to protect crops against both abiotic and biotic stress due to its species-specific targeting and the biodegradability of the dsRNA. However, dsRNA delivery is challenging due to limited uptake both in organisms and cells and troublesome endosomal escape. In the current project, novel carrier systems will be developed, characterized and biologically evaluated in both insect and plant assays. By influencing the polymer backbone and functionalities on the polymers, based on biological evaluation, the goal of the current project is to develop one or more materials that allow straightforward dsRNA delivery to both insects and plants.
- PhD student polymers: Sven Vereecken
- PhD student insects: Iris Callewaert
- PhD student plants: Ellen Vandenbussche
- Project coordinator/ Promotor insects/plants: Dr. Kristof De Schutter
- Promotor polymers: Prof. Peter Dubruel
- Promotors plants: Prof. Els Van Damme
Plants are vital for all living organisms on earth. However, climate change has a huge impact on agriculture worldwide. On the one hand, abiotic factors such as droughts, floods or heat result in crop losses and on the other hand, climate change leads to change in pest insects and diseases. RNA interference is a promising strategy to protect crops against abiotic and biotic stress due to its species-specific targeting and the biodegradability of the dsRNA. To overcome the limitations of dsRNA, including low resistance against nucleases, limited uptake both in organisms and cells and troublesome endosomal escape, novel carrier systems have to be developed. During my project, I will develop dsRNA carrier systems that overcome these limitations and increase RNAi efficacy. The carrier systems will be characterized for their dsRNA condensation potential, studying properties such as the particle size and the charge of the formed polyplexes. Later on, their transfection efficiency and toxicity will be assessed. The latter will be performed collaboratingwith the groups of Prof. Els Van Damme and Dr. Kristof De Schutter of the Bioscience engineering faculty. In a final stage, the performance of the dsRNA delivery systems in living plants and insects will be analyzed.