Next-generation Gene Drive for Population Modification of a Human Malaria Vector Mosquito
Mosquitoes are the vector for the parasitic disease malaria. In recent years, scientists like Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Donald Bren Professor Anthony James have been exploring new genetic-based approaches to control the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. In a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Professor James and his collaborators have come closer to applying their genetically modified mosquitoes to real-world applications.
Professor James has been working on a revolutionary malaria-resistant mosquito for many years. The creation of the new breed of mosquito was made possible due to the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing method. The method has allowed Professor James to introduce a new DNA element into the Anopheles gambiae mosquito to help slow the spread of malaria.
In the new study, Professor James and his team have demonstrated that their gene-editing system achieves essential target product profile requirements for efficacy and performance. They found that their system can reach 98 to 100% integration in both male and female mosquitoes. Full introduction into a test population was observed in small cage trials within 6 to 10 generations following a single release of gene-drive males. In addition, the team found that only one predicted off-target site was cleaved in vitro, with negligible off-targeted cleavage in vivo. Their gene-editing system could very well be an effective way to control malaria transmission and thus has the potential to save millions of people from this devastating disease.