Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tech Researchers Bite Mosquitoes Back

Ever wish you could affect a little ethnic cleansing on the mosquito population? Virginia Tech scientists appear to have found a way to accomplish that, though in a gender-specific manner. According to a press release, Tech researchers "have found a gene that can reduce female mosquitoes over many generations.

"Males are preferred because they do not bite. Female mosquitoes bite to get blood for egg production and are the prime carriers of the pathogens that cause malaria, Zika, and dengue fever."

Researcher Zhijian “Jake” Tu and paper co-author Yumin Qi, along with other colleagues found that placing a particular Y chromosome gene on the autosomes of Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes — a species responsible for transmitting malaria — killed off 100 percent of all female embryos that inherited the gene. The extra copy of this gene, which the researchers call Guy1, is passed on to both sexes but only males survive. The male mosquitoes do not appear to have any detectable reproductive disadvantages in the laboratory.

Gene editing looks like the way the extra copy of Guy1 will effectively be transmitted, but that study is on-going. There is no word on the positive benefit of sparing the male mosquitoes.

(Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/William Collins)

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