New Technology Designed to Genetically Control Disease-spreading Mosquitoes

M. Aguilera,  UC San Diego News Center,  2021.

Leveraging advancements in CRISPR-based genetic engineering, researchers at the University of California San Diego have created a new system that restrains populations of mosquitoes that infect millions each year with debilitating diseases. An illustration by study coauthor Stephanie Gamez depicts flightless females and sterile male mosquitoes, features of the new precision-guided sterile insect technique, or pgSIT, which is designed to control disease-spreading Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The new precision-guided sterile insect technique, or pgSIT, alters genes linked to male fertility—creating sterile offspring—and female flight in Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species responsible for spreading wide-ranging diseases including dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika. “pgSIT is a new scalable genetic control system that uses a CRISPR-based approach to engineer deployable mosquitoes that can suppress populations,” said UC San Diego Biological Sciences Professor Omar Akbari. “Males don’t transmit diseases so the idea is that as you release more and more sterile males, you can suppress the population without relying on harmful chemicals and insecticides.”

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