Posted on Jan 09, 2019, 4 p.m.
University of California and UC Berkeley have developed an approach to controlling disease carrying and/or crop destroying insects using CRISPR-Cas9 based genome editing to determine insect sex and fertility, as published in Nature Communications.
Initially developed in fruit flies the technology presents a take on sterile insect techniques that have been used since the 1930s to produce and release sterile masses as strategy for eradicating insect population. Instead of relying on DNA damaging agents to sterilize males, or applying SIT like genetic manipulation to which resistance can develop, this pgSIT technique generates eggs from which 100% of surviving progeny males are sterile.
If applied this may represent a cost effective and efficient way to control insects worldwide. Resulting pgSIT strategy using CRISPR technology disrupts key genes essential for male fertility and female viability to generate eggs that only give rise to sterile males which can be introduced into the insect population.
Nikolay Kandul, PhD explains that this is a twist on old technology making it portable from one species to another to suppress populations of agricultural pest or mosquitoes. Simplicity and consistency of generating sterile males has been demonstrated, with hopes the technology will be adapted to help prevent spread of diseases such as yellow fever, dengue fever, and Zika.
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