Scientists from the University of California have published a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences detailing how they created a batch of mosquitoes that can neither develop nor transmit malaria.
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And to show the ultimate success of the experiment, the engineered mosquitoes were also able to transmit the genetic material that blocked the development of malaria in their young ones – making them free of malaria and sterile to infect humans with the disease.
The ultimate aim of the scientists is to create a population of mosquitoes that are naturally antimalarial, depriving them of their natural abilities to develop the disease.
To get the task done, scientists from Irvine and San Diego campuses of the university combined to inject a DNA material that prevented malarial from being created in the insect and being transmitted to others in the Anopheles stephensi, a species of mosquitoes that is common to India and Asia.
Using Cripr – a powerful gene editing tool to alter the DNA of the mosquitoes, the researchers were able to get into the nucleus of the insect’s cell and snip its DNA and then insert new genes. "This opens up the real promise that this technique can be adapted for eliminating malaria," said Anthony James, Distinguished Professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and microbiology and molecular genetics at UCI.
Anthony James – a member of the National Academy of Sciences, noted that more research still needs to be done to analyze the efficacy of the antibodies generated in the second and third generation of mosquitoes that gone the DNA editing, saying that "We know the gene works. The mosquitoes we created are not the final brand, but we know this technology allows us to efficiently create large populations."
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Malaria is most common in tropical regions of the world and affects nearly 40% of the world’s population, killing about 1 million people every year – mostly children and pregnant women in Africa and other places.