Three scientists of Wageningen University & Research are to receive a Vidi grant of up to 800,000 euros. The funds can be put towards developing an innovative research tract and expanding their research group further.
The scientists focus on different topics. Fedor Miloserdov, for example, studies ways in which modern chemistry may become more sustainable. To this end, scientists require more efficient, economically viable, and environmentally friendly methods to make compounds with high molecular complexity.
Cells are like automobile factories
Scientist Daan Swarts hoped to discover the origin and evolution of the molecular RNA-interference (RNAi) process. This mechanism regulates genetic properties in plant, insect, animal, and human cells. Cells are a well-oiled machine that can be compared to an automobile factory, in which machined continuously produce parts and transfer them to the workshop. However, not all parts are always required. A roof, for instance, is not needed for a convertible. A controller removes the redundant part from the conveyor belt before assembly. RNAi is a similar process: it ensures that some genetic properties that are coded into the DNA are not or only sparingly included in a cell. It breaks down the messenger (RNA) and thus prevents specific instructions from reaching the cell.
Defense against aphids
Karen Kloth will focus on how plants are able to defend themselves from aphids so rapidly. Aphids are insects that sting and suck and form a serious problem in the production of bell peppers. This study focuses on the plant genes at a cellular level after the plant has been stung by an aphid. Researchers use a wild variety of the bell pepper to unravel the intricacies of the plant’s natural defense against aphids and to learn what genes may be bred into bell pepper plants to increase its resistance. Scientists also study what microbial substances may be added to the roots to activate these genes to develop stronger bell pepper plants and more effective growing methods as an alternative to chemical pesticides.