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Scientists Repel Mosquitoes By Disabling Sense Of Smell

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Scientists cut off mosquitoes prey-detecting sense of smell…

Last month it was reported that scientists have had some success at altering the DNA of mosquitoes to create specific genes which are then passed on to the younger generation. The hope is that by using such a technique, they could introduce a gene that disables the malaria parasite not just in that generation, but also in all of the insect’s offspring. Unfortunately, such a technology is only just emerging on the horizon and certainly won’t be readied anytime soon, but our hopes to eradicate malaria are not all pinned on the one team from Imperial College London and the University of Washington, other such as Patrick L. Jones and Gregory M. Pask’s team are also reporting breakthroughs in the field, this time by introducing a molecule that disables the mosquitoes ability to smell.

Mosquitoes typically use their sense of smell to detect the next meal. However an insect’s sense of smell works slightly different from our own, and Jones and Pask’s team have figured out how to take advantage of this.

In order for a mosquitoes sense of smell to work, the molecules of the scent must bind to two odor receptors (OR), a conventional odorant-binding OR and a nonconventional coreceptor (Orco). Jones and Pack found that by introducing a molecule, known as VUAA1, they could interrupt the binding of the second receptors and disable the insect’s sense of smell.

With the mosquitoes sense of smell rendered useless, they have no way of honing in on their prey, and this could effectively reduce the transmission of malaria.

While the exact mechanics behind the alteration are still unclear, the technique seems to be exceptionally effective. More research needs to be conducted into well the molecule actually repelling mosquitoes; it also needs to be deemed safe for all.

So while we may still be some years off developing a mosquito repellant for commercial use, the medical community is piling up viable options to add to our arsenal.



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