November 15, 2017
Gene editing is an incredibly powerful technique, made faster and more capable by CRISPR, which is the world’s most efficient and exact genetic manipulation tool. Now, in an effort to demonstrate how gene editing could be used to eradicate the mosquito species Aedes aegypti —a major carrier of diseases like dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika virus— researchers from the University of California, Riverside (UC Riverside) developed mosquitoes whose germlines express the Cas9 enzyme in a more stable way.
The result is a yellow, three-eyed, wingless mosquito, made possible through disruptions in the insect’s cuticle, wing, and eye development. These transgenic mosquitoes are now more susceptible to the use of CRISPR-Cas9 to facilitate edits that could lead to the eventual eradication of the species.
This is just a first step, however, according to lead researcher Omar Akbari, an assistant professor of entomology at UC Riverside, who published the study in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Ultimately, the plan is to combine CRISPR-Cas9 with the use of gene drives systems, a technology that increases the chance for a particular gene to express from a parent organism to its offspring.