Project – AptaVita

Our body requires micronutrients in very small amounts. When there is an insufficient intake of micronutrients, it can have several effects on people’s health, such as impairment in growth, increased risk of infectious diseases, and poor reproductive outcomes. As deficiencies in micronutrients do not show specific symptoms and are very hard to diagnose, it is also known as “hidden hunger”.

To this date, around two billion people are suffering from micronutrient deficiencies, where women, infants, children, and adolescents are at particular risk of malnutrition. 45% of children under the age of five die due to undernutrition, where micronutrient deficiency lies in one of the sub-forms. Apart from evident and severe health conditions, micronutrient deficiencies can also lead to reductions in energy levels, mental clarity, and overall performance resulting in a perpetuating cycle of poverty and ill-health.

To eliminate global micronutrient deficiencies, quantitative surveying of regional micronutrient deficiency data has enhanced the evidence based micronutrient programs to improve their effectiveness. However, the current situation in monitoring and constructing accurate and speedy monitoring systems requires intensive laboratory setups that limit accessibility and efficiency.

This year our team AptaVita will strive to contribute to a solution, both in and out of the laboratory. We aim to develop a modular, fast, and cheap quantitative detection kit to be used at the point-of-care. Our technical approaches involve using aptamers as biosensors and synthetic biology for an easy colorimetric readout to accelerate the surveying of micronutrient deficiencies. Our human practices will engage in communication and discussions with a diverse range of stakeholders. We hope to learn from them how to best contribute to finding a solution while implementing their advice in the development of the kit. We aim to create awareness and instigate action around the world.