Full list of the problems of the International Student BioTournament 2018

1. Probiotics

According to WHO definition “Probiotics are live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate quantities confer a health benefit on the host”. However, at the present time there is insufficient scientific evidence proving the prevention of diseases or improving the health status of people from taking probiotics. Consider the mechanism of the therapeutic effect of probiotic drugs. Propose a scheme and, if possible, conduct an experiment demonstrating the mechanism of action of these drugs. Suggest ways to increase the therapeutic effect when taking probiotics.

2. Save at lunch

It looks promising to use microorganisms-producers to accumulate in the biomass the various valuable substances. To reduce the cost of such biotechnological processes waste from agricultural production is used. An example of a cheap substrate for microorganisms is the sunflower husk, which contains a large amount of cellulose. However, in the process of processing fiber in the biomass of microorganisms, toxic or allergenic for humans and animals components can be produced. Suggest ways of the biotechnological processing of sunflower husk and the use of the received nutrients in food and fodder products.

The problem was proposed by tournament’s partner EFKO Group.

3. One thousand years of solitude

In the soils that develop on “permafrost”, in the zone of the tundra, various processes of cryogenic mass transfer are widespread. This is reflected in the violation of the vertical connection of soil horizons due to the formation of ice and a rather rapid burial of fragments of surface organogenic horizons deep into the profile. As a part of these fragments, migration of representatives of soil microfauna (flagellates, infusorians, amoebae, nematodes) from the surface deep into the soil can occur, where they enter the near-zero temperature regime, and sometimes enter a permafrost state.

It is known that the resting stages of a number of organisms are capable of carrying a long (hundreds and thousands of years) cryopreservation in the low-temperature conditions of deep horizons of polar soils. However, studies have shown that only certain species from the communities of the modern soil microfauna can sustain viability under such conditions.

Identify differences between species that are capable of long-term viability in low-temperature conditions and species that do not possess this capacity. Identify the factors that prevent the long-term survival of species in the community of “living fossil” organisms.

Problem’s authors are Alexey V. Lupachev and Anastasia V. Shatilovich, senior researches at laboratory of soil cryology, The Institute of Soil Science, Pushchino, Russia. (http://cryosol.ruhttps://www.a-lupachev.com).

4. Wind of change

The problem of municipal solid waste recycling is one of the main environmental and economic problems in the world. One of the aspects of this problem is the emission at landfills of so-called landfill gas, which causes negative effects both locally and globally. In particular, the accumulation of landfill gas causes fire hazards, has a disastrous effect on the vegetation cover and pollutes the atmosphere with toxic and greenhouse compounds.
Develop methods to reduce the emission of landfill gas or ways to minimize the negative effects of its formation.

Problem was proposed by Danila Y. Aladin, researcher at the Laboratory of landscape ecology, Institute of Basic Biology Problems, RAS, Pushchino, Russia.

5. To see the forest for the trees

The territory of the Russian Federation is more than 17 million square km, and about 45% of it is covered by forests. At present, periodic state forest inventory is mandatory. Its tasks are to determine the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of forests, compilation of databases and geobotanical maps. Full-scale live studies provide detailed data on forest biocenoses, but only in small areas. Data from Earth remote sensing received from satellites, probes, as a result of aerial survey, etc., do not allow to take into account some features of forest communities, primarily multilevel. For example, for coniferous-broadleaved taiga in the south of the Far East of Russia, the presence of three tree-layers, undergrowth and shrubs is common. One of the most modern approaches for mapping is the use of laser scanners, but it does not allow to determine the species belonging to individual components.

Suggest new or improve existing methods of vegetation mapping, which will greatly accelerate the mapping process and reduce its laboriousness.

The problem was proposed by Ekaterina A. Petrunenko, junior researcher at Laboratory of Geobotany, Botanical Garden-Institute FEB RAS.

6. Degree of comfort

RNA thermometer or RNA thermosensor is a temperature-sensitive non-coding RNA that takes part in the regulation of gene expression. The principle of the RNA thermometer is to change the secondary structure of this molecule in response to a change in temperature. During such structural changes, important parts of this RNA, for example, the ribosome binding site, are exposed to the outside or, conversely, go deep into the molecule, thereby affecting the translation of the nearby gene. Usually, these are the genes needed to respond to heat or cold shock.

Explain the molecular mechanism for triggering a thermosensor in response to a change in temperature. Offer any possible applications for temperature sensitive RNA. In what temperature range could it be used?

The problem was proposed by tournament’s partner BIOCAD Biopharmaceutical Company. Problem’s author is Valery V. Solovyev, Cell Engineering Department, BIOCAD.

7. The film supremacy

Microorganisms existing in the form of biofilms cause most infectious diseases. Bacteria that live inside the biofilms show a much higher resistance to antibiotics and other medicines. The greatest threat among film-forming bacteria is Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus spp., Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which cause urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and infections after surgery.

Propose strategies to treat diseases caused by film-forming bacteria, given the growth of their antibiotic resistance.

The task was proposed by the general partner of BioTournament – «R-Pharm»

8. 670 tons that painted the world

The carmine is a bright-red pigment produced from the wingless females of the Dactylopius coccus or other scale insects. This technology has changed little since ancient times, which limits the volume of dye production. At the same time, the demand for it is constantly growing, as carmine is stable, safe and durable.

Suggest ways to intensify the production of carmine, or suggest and experimentally justify the use of another red food pigment that is not less convenient as carmine

9. Hard to Be a God

All known attempts to create large-scale closed ecosystems, which can be used both as autonomous settlements in space, and in the case of extreme deterioration of living conditions on Earth, proved unsuccessful (for example, Biosphere-2). Highlight the fundamental problems arising from the operation of such projects and suggest ways to solve them. Design a maximally autonomous ecosystem that is capable of lasting existence.