Do you want to be part of a real research journey that could help change the lives of children around the world? Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) affect millions of children in Asia, Africa and South America in which there are many poor areas without sanitation.
What is the problem?
One of these NTDs, Trichuriasis is caused by a parasitic worm known as the whipworm (Trichuris trichiura). Children can become seriously infected with these worms when living with conditions of poor sanitation, and the infection causes diarrhoea, abdominal pain, malnutrition and developmental problems. This disease can have chronic social and economic impact on these communities, creating a relentless cycle of poverty.
Studying the whipworm can help scientists to find new ways of treating and preventing trichuriasis. Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have sequenced the genome of the human whipworm. This is the complete set of DNA instructions that makes up the whipworm. But we need to make sense of all these instructions to understand the biology of the worm and to find new ways to fight the disease.
How can you help?
We are looking for students across the country who are keen to work with scientists from the Wellcome Genome Campus to help identify all of the genes in the human whipworm genome – a process known as annotation. This is not a small task as there are thought to be up to 15,000 genes in the human whipworm genome, so we need your and your students help!
What does it involve?
First, we need to predict where the genes are. We use algorithms to do this but need human eyes to assess the evidence to decide if the computer predictions are correct. Once you have decided on the best gene predictions, you will be able to review and edit the genes in the genome using a software called APOLLO. Your school will be given its own section of the genome to review and annotate. Don’t worry, full training and support will be available for teachers and students!
As a final stage to the project, your students will be able to investigate the role of different genes and find out more about their function. By comparing the genome sequence with other whipworm species such as the mouse whipworm (Trichuris muris), students will identify new or different genes that could play an important role in the biology of the whipworm.
Why get involved?
This project is ground breaking. It is the first time that any parasitic worm has had its genome fully curated, making it all the more exciting to have students working alongside scientists to drive this pioneering endeavour forward. This project enables students to experience first-hand the latest bioinformatics techniques used in genomics and all you need is a computer, internet browser and internet connection! Get in touch now to be part of this truly special research opportunity and make your school’s contribution to global health.
We have circa 15,000 genes to annotate and for the project to be a success we need schools to commit to being part of this upfront to help us allocate sections appropriately. After initial training how much time is spent is totally down to your students, but we could be looking at least a year to map the full set depending on number signing up!
A brief overview video can be found on this link: