Controlling populations of disease-transmitting mosquito species by gene editing
With insecticide resistance on the rise, gene editing offers an alternative approach to tackling insect vectors of disease. Scientists are beginning to test out the CRISPR/Cas9 system to alter specific genes in an organism’s DNA, and propagate these changes to future generations, a process known as gene drive. Key elements of this toolkit include an enzyme, Cas9, which cuts DNA, and a guide RNA, directing Cas9 to the correct sequence. Cells carrying an engineered gene variant and these components will cleave other copies of the target sequence, then repair them following the template of the modified sequence. This ensures the variant effectively spreads through a population, such as wild mosquitoes. After Anopheles and Aedes mosquitoes, researchers recently designed effective tools for Culex mosquitoes (shown here as larvae), which transmit serious diseases including West Nile virus and avian malaria, paving the way for potential gene drive methods to control these species.
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