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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Develop Gene-Edited Mosquito to Help Eliminate Malaria

April 21, 2021

Scientists from the Imperial College of London used CRISPR-Cas9 technology to develop gene-edited mosquitoes that could possibly reduce their ability to spread Malaria. Though only a preliminary study has been done, the breakthrough could be used for a gene drive that can provide a new way to reduce illnesses and deaths caused by Malaria.

The researchers used CRISPR-Cas9 technology to insert a gene that encodes an antimalarial protein among genes that are turned on after the mosquito (Anopheles gambiae) consumes a blood meal. This allows a whole section of the DNA to also serve as a gene drive that can be passed on to most mosquito offspring. Then they bred the mosquitoes to determine if these can successfully reproduce and remain healthy. Further investigation was also made to test how well the Malaria parasite developed into the mosquitoes' guts.

While the preliminary study is promising, the scientists must still provide further evidence that this approach is safe and effective before releasing gene-edited mosquitoes into the wild. The next step is for the gene-edited mosquito to undergo a stringent regulatory process to make sure that it is safe and effective in blocking the Malaria parasite without raising concerns regarding accidental spread into the environment. The results of the study will advance gene drives closer to being tested in the field as an effective Malaria elimination strategy.

Read the complete results in eLife, with additional reports from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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