Crop Biotech Update

First-Ever Transgenic Tick to Help Fight Tick-Borne Diseases

March 14, 2018

Monika Gulia-Nuss, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nevada, Reno, is working on generating the first-ever transgenic ticks in her lab to explore new targets for vector control. Vector control is a strategy used to limit organisms that spread disease pathogens.

Gulia-Nuss' lab works specifically on deer tick. Ticks are known for transmitting many diseases in animals and humans. The deer tick is a known carrier of diseases such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis. Gulia-Nuss said, "Our focus is to be able to manipulate these ticks in the lab so that we can understand the functions of different genes. This way we can have a better approach for finding new vaccine, drug or insecticide targets."

The main hypothesis of her lab's work is to disrupt insulin signaling in ticks to affect parasite development. This will help in understanding pathogen interactions as well as vector control targets for diseases such as Lyme disease. Originally a mosquito biologist, Gulia-Nuss was surprised to know that the life cycle of ticks is two years. Her first move in her transgenic research is to shorten this period on the ticks that she is working on.

For more, read the NevadaToday.