Gene-editing technique may reduce, eliminate mosquito-borne disease
Historically, scientists have understood genetics through creating a specific organism that lacks a specific gene. Then the researchers determine whether and how the organism changed, thanks to the missing gene.
"To understand how the female mosquito actually transmits disease, you have to learn how she finds humans to bite and how she chooses a source of water to lay her eggs,” Benjamin A. Matthews, leader of the study and postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller University, said. “Once you have that information, techniques for intervention will come.
Now, this method, called CRISPR-Cas9, can be used at a more advanced stage because it is now feasible in a wider range of organisms.
"This amazing technique has worked in nearly every organism that's been tried," Leslie B. Vosshall, a Robin Chemers Neustein professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, said. "There are lots of interesting animal species out there that could not be studied using genetics prior to CRISPR-Cas9, and as a result this technique is already revolutionizing biology."
A team of researchers from Rockefeller University used the CRISPR-Cas9 to study the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This insect is infecting countless people each year with dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever.
The scientists were able to target mutations and insertions in the mosquito genes, which will assist the team in discovering how the genes operate within the insect. This could lead to novel ways of controlling the gene and eliminating mosquito-carried diseases.
"Before starting this project, we thought it would be difficult to modify many genes in the mosquito genome in a lab setting," Matthews said. "With a little tweaking, we were able to make this technique routine, and it's only going to get easier, faster and cheaper from here on out."
More details can be found in Cell Reports.