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Genetic engineering gives mosquito control an upgrade

  • Published
    12th Sep, 2023
Context

The surge in mosquito-borne diseases due to urbanization and climate change calls for innovative mosquito control approaches. Sequencing and genetic manipulation of mosquito genomes offer promising tools for effective disease prevention. 

What is gene drive?

  • Scientists worldwide have developed various genetic modification approaches. A major one in this endeavour is gene-drive technology, whose end result is for mosquitoes to selectively inherit some genes, rather than the inheritance to follow the rules of Mendelian genetics.
  • A gene drive is a type of genetic engineering technique that modifies genes so that they don’t follow the typical rules of heredity.
  • Gene drives dramatically increase the likelihood that a particular suite of genes will be passed onto the next generation, allowing the genes to rapidly spread through a population and override natural selection. 
  • This technology was conceived by Austin Burt, professor at Imperial College London, in a 2003 paper published in Royal Society Proceedings.

How does it work?

  • Gene drives work by using directed repair gene editing.
  • This enables the insertion of a new gene, called the driven gene, at a particular cut site through the use of a donor template.

Benefits

Concerns/Issues

  • It would lead to prevention of diseases. 
  • It can help to address the challenges of invasive species.
  •  Drastic reduction in the mosquito population could alter food chains and ecosystems that involve mosquitoes.
  • Unintended consequences can occur such as unforeseen ecological disruptions
  • Potential for engineered genes to spread beyond target mosquito populations.
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