MIT Technology Review – The Download
A team in the UK has caused a buzzing cage full of mosquitoes to “crash” and die out after releasing sex-distorting DNA into their gene pool. The researchers say they eventually hope to use the technology, called a gene drive, to make malaria-carrying mosquitoes extinct in Africa.
The problem: The malaria parasite, spread by mosquitoes, infected some 216 million people worldwide in 2016 and killed 445,000 of them, according to Reuters. There’s no vaccine.
Gene gadget: A gene drive is a man-made genetic construct that spreads faster than usual as animals reproduce. The technology, in effect, provides a way to spread genetic alterations among wild organisms.
Last mosquito standing: A team at Imperial College London say they used a gene drive to spread broken copies of a gene that controls which sex a mosquito becomes. The genes turns female mosquitoes into hermaphrodites that can’t bite or lay eggs. The result was published in Nature Biotechnology today.