The Nanokey: One Nanoparticle to Unlock All Plants

The Nanokey: One Nanoparticle to Unlock All Plants











Genes are like tiny switches that we can turn on and off. But for many plants, we cannot switch them. Sometimes, buttons are locked and cannot be unlocked with our keys. Other times, plants cannot grow anymore after we unlock the buttons. Switching on and off those buttons is our way learn how to make our plants better and stronger, so they produce more and resist the challenges of weather and pests. I want to create a nano-key that can unlock those difficult plants and make them grow, so they can help us cope with the increasing pressures on food production.

Doel van het project

Our food supply ⏤ thus our survival ⏤ depends on plants. However, many crop and non-crop plant
species and varieties are difficult or impossible to improve through transformation with current techniques
or culture in vitro. Both problems are a bottleneck that hinders knowledge generation and engineering for
plant propagation, protection from biotic and abiotic stresses, and genetic enhancement for higher
productivity. This limitation has an enormous impact on food waste and threatens food production and
security. For instance, 30% of food production is lost due to plant diseases and changing weather patterns.
Furthermore, production needs to increase by 60% in 2050 to feed the growing world population,
altogether with foreseen worsening environmental conditions (1,2). Following the current pace, we will not
overcome this challenge in time. We urgently need novel strategies to improve crops (3). In this project,
I aim to develop a new tool using nanotechnology to universally overcome the transformation
and tissue culture bottlenecks to allow effective and rapid improvement of recalcitrant plants.

Relatie met missie (Motivatie)

Nanotechnologies for the application in plant field, be it as nanopesticides, nanofertilizers or nanotransformants are notably underexplored, and bear a big potential to change the approach, efficiency and effectivity of plant transformation and regeneration. Tackling these issues is essential to achieve the goals that the MMIP seeks to achieve, and the proposed strategies have direct potential to solve them and to repurpose and enhance previously existing techniques.

Geplande acties

• Determine must-have (bio)chemical features for nanostructures to translocate through the plant cell wall into desired cell compartments by the end of the project.
• Produce hormone-loaded particles that trigger responses in single cells or locally within a year.
• Permanently and transiently transform single plant cells in vitro and in planta within three years.

Naam projectleider

Viola Willemsen

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