Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Increasing efficacy of insecticides using genetic engineering

An interesting development in genetic engineering involves fungi and insecticides. Recently, some fungi have been genetically modified to produce certain toxins, similar to how E. coli cells can be modified to express genes that make them glow and resist antibiotics. The toxins that were selected target certain insects, allowing for a more natural and effective insecticide. The fact that this possibility has begun to be explored opens many new doors for targeted insecticides. For example, certain fungi may be able to be modified to produce a toxin that kills an invasive species of insects while leaving the other existing populations unharmed.

In the first article the peptide scorpine is discussed, which has a very unique amino acid sequence and can specifically target a parasite that causes malaria in rodents. Since scorpine has a specific amino acid sequence, it may be possible to insert a gene that codes specifically for that peptide into a fungus. If that is successful, there is the potential that the fungus could be used to eliminate the parasites carrying malaria and possibly even mosquitoes carrying malaria as well.

I think this could be very useful in coming years. If fungi can be modified to produce certain toxins that are not harmful to humans, but will wipe out some invasive species, there is the potential for a more natural option for insecticides. This could allow farmers to reap more viable product out of every harvest, increasing their yield and income. The produce also wouldn't have to be coated in harmful chemicals that could potentially lead to cancer or other health issues. I believe this would be a very important field to keep studying and experimenting with because it could dramatically increase people's quality of life by keeping them out of harms way from chemical insecticides as well as diseases carried by small organisms (like parasites and insects).


Scorpine, an anti-malaria and anti-bacterial agent purified from scorpion venom:

Enhancing the utilization of host trehalose by fungal trehalase improves the virulence of fungal insecticide: 

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