Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Scientists create genetically modified malaria-blocking mosquitoes

     Scientists from the University of California have been able to alter genes of mosquitoes to produce a strain which introduce malaria-blocking genes through its progeny.  This effort is being made to hopefully create a antimalarial mosquito population which would help out our global population tremendously. Millions of people are sickened with the disease yearly which many die from. The scientists used the Crispr method to insert a DNA element into the germ line of Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes which resulted with 99.5% of offspring carrying the gene preventing malaria. The Crispr method allows scientists to access a cell's nucleus to snip DNA to either replace mutated genes or insert new ones. 
     Anthony James, Distinguished Professor of molecular biology & biochemistry and microbiology & molecular genetics at UCI focused this for nearly 20 years. An anti-dengue fever model he tested in 2012 showed antibodies that impair the parasite's biology from the immune system of mice can be introduced into mosquitoes but this was only inherited in half the progeny. UC San Diego biologists worked with fruit flies and found a new method of generating mutations in both copies of a gene which involved the Crispr-associated Cas9 nuclease enzyme. The two groups collaborated both methods to create this strain of antimalarial genes by packaging the genes with a Cas9 enzyme and a guide RNA to create a genetic "cassette" that, when injected into the embryo, it targets a specific spot on the germ line DNA to insert the antimalaria antibody genes. Further testing needs to be done to perfect the strain but they are looking to efficiently create large populations soon.
     I found this article very interesting because it is dealing with the Crispr method of altering genes. I previously did a blog post about the Crispr method being used on chickens. With this gene alteration, if a huge population of antimalaria mosquitoes is created and implanted into areas of high disease rates than millions of lives can be saved annually. This disease affects so many lives so if it can be reduced in any way than it shows great significance to science. Below is another article about another team of scientists doing the same experiment

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