The world’s biggest collection of arachnid venoms will be used to help find pesticides that don’t harm bees, in new research at USC 澳大利亚.
Volker Herzig博士, 谁这个月开始在南加州大学工作了, was last year awarded an 澳大利亚n 研究 Council Future Fellowship valued at $755,000 to protect crops by finding toxins that target destructive pests such as caterpillars.
“Caterpillars are a big problem in agriculture, as they can consume a lot of plant matter in a short period of timeHerzig博士说.
The goal will be to find and isolate the toxin that has a desired effect such as paralysis or death in caterpillars that eat the crops, while not affecting the bees that pollinate them.
赫齐格博士, 一个终生的蜘蛛爱好者, was awarded the fellowship while working at The University of 昆士兰. He plans to base his USC research laboratory at either the Sunshine Coast or 更多的ton Bay campuses, while employing research students and teaching various classes.
“The challenge will be to find the toxin that targets specific pest insects, because there are over a million different species in the world, but also to protect bees which are so important for food production,他说.
“你可以得到3个以上,000 peptides from a single funnel-web spider venom, 所以这是一个超级复杂的任务. 如果你幸运的话, you have a few microlitres of the venom, and each toxin is available in only microgram amounts, so you are looking for just one of these molecules in a very small venom sample.”
要做到这一点, he will draw on global collaborators and his collection of more than 700 different venoms from arachnids (including spiders and scorpions), which is the largest venom collection in the world. He has left a back-up collection with his former group leader Professor Glenn King at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at UQ, with whom he still collaborates closely.
“Commercial suppliers offer only about 20 percent of the arachnid venoms in my collection, which means that unless you are keen to milk those spiders and scorpions yourself, 80 percent of these venoms you can only obtain from our collectionHerzig博士说.
He’s personally milked an estimated 5,000只蜘蛛和1只,一生中有500只蝎子, holding their fangs (in case of spiders) or stingers (in case of scorpions) carefully over a vial and using weak electrical stimulations to encourage secretion, and has never once been bitten or stung, even when he began collecting spiders as a teenager.
“You get a feeling for how they behave, and when is a good time to interact with them, 你会有很好的反应能力,Herzig博士说.
“我14岁的时候, I got my first pet tarantula and eventually I had dozens of spiders in various terrariums in my room. I had a pretty big collection, but I couldn’t bring any of my spiders to 澳大利亚.”
赫齐格博士’s previous work has included using spider venoms to identify opportunities for human therapeutics and molecular research tools, and in 2016 his work using a spider toxin to understand the mechanisms of mechanical pain perception was published scientific journal 自然.
Though he’s still living in the Lockyer Valley, 赫齐格博士 is looking forward to relocating closer to USC’s two largest campuses.
“We were bringing our dogs up every second or third weekend to walk them on the beach, so we’ve always wanted to move a big closer to the Coast, and we spend a lot of time at Bribie Island too,他说.
当他建立实验室的时候, his team’s research projects will include targeting the small hive beetle and varroa mites, which are both important parasites of honeybees, finding orally active compounds that affect caterpillars, and tailoring a specific spider toxin to kill varroa mites while not harming the bees.
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