‘A plague to be reckoned with’: UMN research creates a buzz with invasive fruit fly research

B. Most,  The Minnesota Daily,  2020.

A team of researchers at the University are looking for a way to introduce sterile male spotted wing drosophila flies into the population as a form of genetic pest control, helping farmers in a way that other pesticides and proactive measures have not.

In early November, assistant professor Mike Smanski published an article about a new breakthrough in this research, demonstrating for the first time this kind of genetic engineering was possible in the common fruit fly. This shows that researchers could engineer this work into spotted wing drosophila in the future.

The University’s Smanski Lab has also studied this technique in mosquitoes, zebra fish and carp, but never with this type of fruit fly, he said.

“These are all a new class of genetic pesticide, basically, that allow you to engineer the pest organism itself and convert that pest organism into the pesticide,” Smanski said.

Through this work the researchers can create a pest that is biologically the same, but when the females mate with these genetically modified males, they will not produce viable offspring, he said.

This sterile insect technique can be helpful not only in reducing the population of insects, but in reducing the impacts of insecticides on surrounding species and nearby ecosystems, said Feltman, a second-year biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics graduate student.

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