Sterilizing skeeters using CRISPR/Cas9

H. Tasoff,  Phy Org,  2021.

Mosquitoes are one of humanity’s greatest nemeses, estimated to spread infections to nearly 700 million people per year and cause more than one million deaths. UC Santa Barbara Distinguished Professor Craig Montell has made a breakthrough in one technique for controlling populations of Aedes aegypti, a mosquito that transmits dengue, yellow fever, Zika and other viruses. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, documents the first use of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to target a specific gene tied to fertility in male mosquitoes. The researchers were then able to discern how this mutation can suppress the fertility of female mosquitoes. Montell and his coauthors were working to improve a vector-control practice called the sterile insect technique (SIT). To manage populations, scientists raise a lot of sterile male insects. They then release these males in numbers that overwhelm their wild counterparts. The idea is that females that mate with sterile males before finding a fertile one are themselves rendered infertile, thereby decreasing the size of the next generation. Repeating this technique several times has the potential to crash the population. What’s more, because each generation is smaller than the last, releasing a similar number of sterile males has a stronger effect over time.

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