New gene-editing technique could drive out mosquito-borne disease

June 26, 2017

Scientists at UC Berkeley and UC Riverside have demonstrated a way to edit the genome of disease-carrying mosquitoes that brings us closer to suppressing them on a continental scale.

The study used CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology to insert and spread genes designed to suppress wild insects, while at the same time avoiding the resistance to these efforts that evolution would typically favor. The proof-of-concept study was demonstrated in fruit flies; but the researchers believe this technology could be used in mosquitoes to help fight malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases in the next decade, pending public and regulatory approval.

Magnified Image of Mosquito on flesh

“What we showed is that, if you disrupt a gene required for fertility in female mosquitoes at multiple sites all at once, it becomes much harder for the population to evolve around that disruption. As a result, you can suppress a much larger population. It’s much the same as combination drug therapy, but for CRISPR-based gene drive,” said John Marshall, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

The article was published recently in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, UC MEXUS and the Parker Foundation.

By Brett Israel, UC Berkeley Media Relations

Read the full story at Berkeley News.