‘Clever Approach’: Scientists Create GM-Free Organisms Using Genetic Engineering

A. Paleja,  The WIRE,  2021.

Farther to the north, researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a novel way to resolve this problem. They used genetic engineering to create organisms for release that are not genetically modified. Maciej Maselko was a postdoctoral associate at the university when he was part of the study. “Slow and expensive regulatory approvals for GM insect release” inspired the team’s work, he told The Wire Science. “We looked for a way to get the benefits achieved with GM insect release but without needing to release GM insects.” He conceptualised the experiment with PhD scholar Siba Das and molecular biology professor Michael Smanski. The results were published in November 2020. In a typical control intervention, researchers release sterile male mosquitoes into the environment. These compete with wild males to mate with wild females. Mosquitoes mate only once in their lifetime. Since mating with sterile mosquitoes produces no offspring, the local mosquito population begins to fall. The methods to select these male mosquitoes to subsequently release are either labour intensive or need specialised equipment. The colony that scientists rear is also often three times larger than the number of males released. Third, a mosquito lives typically for 8-10 days. So scientists must select the males to release close to the site of intervention.

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