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GM Mosquitoes Could Combat Malaria

GM Mosquitoes Could Combat Malaria

Scientist hope GM mosquitoes hold key to eradication of malaria…

Scientists believe they may have devised a new way to alter the DNA of mosquito in order to combat malaria. Researchers have already developed genetically modified malaria-resistant mosquitoes by introducing genes to interfere with the malaria parasite’s development. And now they have shown how these genes can be passed on to whole colony of mosquitoes in just a few generations.

The problem is spreading these genes across the endless number of mosquitoes around the globe, and then getting them to stick. Unless they afford the mosquito some benefits, it’s likely that the gene will be breed out.

gm mosquitoes combat malaria 550x366 GM Mosquitoes Could Combat Malaria

GM Mosquitoes To Combat Malaria

Image Credit: JJ Harrison, 2009.

But scientist at Imperial College London and the University of Washington, in Seattle, believe they have an answer.

They inserted the genes into a homing endonuclease known as I-Scel, which is particularly resilient. The gene then produces an enzyme that causes the DNA to split. When the cells repair the gene is used as a template, and this is done so such a way that the homing endonuclease is passed on to all the sperm produced by the mosquito. Within just 12 generations, over half of the mosquitoes used in the study carried the gene.

Professor Andrea Crisanti, from the department of life sciences at Imperial College London believes it could even be possible to introduce genes which could stop the malaria parasite from growing inside the mosquito, make the insect target animals instead of humans, or even cause the mosquitoes to produce all male offspring which do not transmit malaria.

Battling the disease the has accounted for the loss of more human lives than all wars put together has been a long, ongoing struggle for many organizations around the world, with even public figures such as billionaire like Bill Gates pumping millions and millions into projects to combat the malaria.
Experts now hope that the new findings will lead to a more effective way to control and possible even eradicate the disease.

The findings were reported last year, and published online in the journal Nature, April 20.

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  1. James Gallagher: GM mosquitoes offer malaria hope. BBC, 04/20/2011.

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