UCSD Researchers Create Technology To Sterilize Mosquitoes, Reducing Disease

City News Service,  kpbs,  2021.

Researchers at UC San Diego revealed Friday they have used advancements in CRISPR-based genetic engineering to create a system restraining populations of mosquitoes that infect millions each year with debilitating diseases.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 Omar Akbari, UCSD biological sciences professor. “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.”Details of the new pgSIT are described in Friday’s edition of the journal Nature Communications.The technique differs from “gene drive” systems that could suppress disease vectors by passing desired genetic alterations indefinitely from one generation to the next. Instead, pgSIT uses the gene-editing technology CRISPR to sterilize male mosquitoes and render female mosquitoes, which spread disease, as flightless. The system is self-limiting and is not predicted to persist or spread in the environment, two safety features the researchers say should enable acceptance for this technology.


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