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New crowdfunding project: ‘Beat the bacterium’

04 November 2013

The University of Groningen has initiated a new crowdfunding project for research into epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a rare yet terrible blistering skin disease. For someone with EB even the slightest touch can cause extremely painful blistering and wounds, sometimes over their entire body. Microbiologist Jan Maarten van Dijl of the University Medical Center Groningen wants to find out how the bacteria that colonize the wounds of EB patients and cause so much pain can be defeated. To make this research possible he is looking for support via, the University of Groningen crowdfunding platform

Every year about 20 children with the genetic disorder EB are born in the Netherlands. They are sometimes called ‘butterfly children’ because of their highly fragile skin. Many of them die in infancy. Where most people only develop blisters after prolonged friction, for example after a long walk, a little bit of pressure can already cause damage to the skin or mucous membranes of an EB patient. The resulting blisters and open wounds are hard to treat because their skin is overly sensitive to standard wound dressings.


Although EB cannot be cured yet, with proper care the often excruciating pain can be relieved to a great extent. Another important problem is the frequently chronic infection of wounds. The wound environment is a true paradise for bacteria. Although the infections they cause may appear to be contained for a short while, the bacteria repeatedly re-emerge in slightly different variations. Van Dijl and his team want to uncover the underlying causes and discover why the bacteria thrive in the chronic wounds of EB patients.

Latest technology

Previously, Van Dijl had to use ‘second generation’ bacteria for his research, where bacteria taken from wound samples were cultured. Van Dijl: ‘Nowadays, the latest DNA and RNA analysis technology allows us to study the original bacteria immediately after they have been isolated from a wound, without culturing them that is. This allows us to find out what exactly is happening inside the bacteria while they are causing an infection. With this knowledge it might be possible to permanently defeat these bacteria. This would not only help the EB patients, but the outcomes of this research could also be very valuable for improving the treatment of other wounds, such as burns.’


Using the crowdfunding platform, Jan Maarten van Dijl is looking for support for his research project. His goal is to raise €15,000 with which 50 samples could be analysed, enough to define the most important characteristics of the bacteria. The crowdfunding campaign is an initiative of the Ubbo Emmius Fund. Other crowdfunding campaigns, such as for research on arctic terns and the Dead Sea Scrolls, have raised over €30,000 this year.

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Last modified:13 December 2022 4.43 p.m.
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