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Rigging natural selection: Fight against Zika requires mosquito genes that resist mutations

| | April 12, 2017

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Of the many great things promised by Crispr gene editing technology, the ability to eliminate disease by modifying organisms might just top the list. But doing that requires perfecting something called a gene drive. Think of gene drives as a means of supercharging evolution to, say, give an entire population of mosquitoes a gene that kills the Zika virus. The trouble is, organisms develop resistance to gene drives, much like they eventually outwit pesticides and antibiotics.

Pesticides, mosquito nets, and medicine won’t solve the problem, but gene drives might—provided scientists can make them less likely to succumb to the genetic mutations that might render them useless. 

In a paper presented…in Science Advances, Harvard scientists used computational models to test a means of doing just that.

…science must develop a gene that works even if it isn’t perfectly copied…

To offer an oversimplified explanation, it means you can create a drive that targets a gene essential to survival or reproduction. If the drive inserts smoothly, great. The gene drive drives on. If it doesn’t insert itself smoothly, no problem. The mosquito dies, or does not reproduce. And, because the new code for the essential gene doesn’t exactly match the target it replaced, it won’t get snipped itself.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Creating Zika-Proof Mosquitoes Means Rigging Natural Selection

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