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New Gene Editing Technology Suppresses Wild Insects, Could Wipe Out Mosquito-Borne Diseases

First Posted: Jun 30, 2017 03:55 AM EDT
Why Are Mosquitoes So Good At Carrying Disease?
New gene editing could suppress wild insects including mosquitoes and result in wiping out mosquito-borne diseases.
(Photo : Seeker/YouTube screenshot)

A new research suggests that a new gene editing could suppress the wild insects. This was demonstrated on fruit flies but could also be applied on mosquitoes. With this, the mosquito-borne diseases could potentially be wiped out in time.

The findings of the study were published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, and the work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, Parker Foundation and UC MEXUS. It was led by researchers from the UC Berkeley and UC Riverside. The scientists used the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology to implant and spread the genes that could suppress the wild insects, according to Phys.org.

John M. Marshall, the assistant professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and the lead author of the study, said that if one dislocates a gene needed for fertility in female mosquitoes at many sites immediately, this becomes difficult for the population to grow around that disruption. This could result in suppression of bigger population. Marshall further said that it is the same as the combination drug therapy, but for CRISPR-based gene drive.

The gene editing technology the team used is referred to as gene drive system. This controls how genetic traits are inherited from parents to offspring. The CRISPR/Cas9 could revolutionize the gene drive systems. This is because it delivers the efficient and reliable way to target changes to the genome.

The scientists also used multiplexing together with CRISPR/Cas9. Marshall said that the potential of multiplexing is vast. He explained that with one guide RNA, they could suppress a room of mosquitoes. Meanwhile, with four, they could potentially suppress a continent and the diseases they transmit. However, he added that nature has a knack for finding a way around hurdles, so evaluating that potential will need a lot more work, as Science Alert noted. 

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