First ever gene-edited ticks offer new weapons against Lyme disease

N. Lavars,  New Atlas,  2022.

Gene editing in ticks had been thought to be impossible until now, and with good reason. Tick embryos are very tricky to inject because the egg that contains them has a tough layer on the outside, high pressure levels inside, and is also coated in a waxy layer the mothers create using what’s called the Gené’s organ.”Despite their capacity to acquire and pass on an array of debilitating pathogens, research on ticks has lagged behind other arthropod vectors, such as mosquitoes, largely because of challenges in applying available genetic and molecular tools,” said Monika Gulia-Nuss, a co-senior author of the study and a molecular biologist at the University of Nevada, Reno. Gulia-Nuss and her research team, which included scientists from the University of Maryland and Penn State University, believe they have finally cracked the code. The first step in the breakthrough technique involves ablating the Gené’s organ to prevent the formation of the waxy coating. The eggs were then treated with chemicals benzalkonium chloride and sodium chloride to both eliminate the tough protective layer and lower the pressure inside the eggs.

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