Gene drive alternative uses CRISPR to control insect populations by creating sterile males

1-15-2019 specter theperilsandpromisesofgene drivetechnology
Image credit: Stuart Franklin/Magnum

Scientists at the University of California (UC) San Diego and UC Berkeley have developed a new approach to controlling disease-carrying or crop-destroying insects that uses CRISPR-Cas9-based genome editing to determine insect sex and fertility. The new technology, developed initially in fruit flies as a test case, represents a new take on sterile insect techniques (SITs) that have been used since the 1930s to mass produce and release sterile males as a strategy for eradicating insect populations. However, instead of relying on DNA-damaging agents to sterilize the males … the CRISPR-based technique, called precision-guided SIT (pgSIT), generates eggs from which 100% of progeny surviving to adulthood are sterile males. “A feat never before possible,” they wrote in their published paper in Nature Communications.

Related article:  Viewpoint: UN should reject a proposed ban on gene drives

The targeted genes are also common to a wide cross-section of insects, so the pgSIT technique could feasibly be applied to many different types of insect pests.

“This is a novel twist of a very old technology,” said first author Nikolay Kandul, PhD, an assistant project scientist in UC San Diego’s division of biological sciences. “That novel twist makes it extremely portable from one species to another species to suppress populations of mosquitoes or agricultural pests, for example, those that feed on valuable wine grapes.”

Read full, original post: Gene Drive Alternative Could Lead Pesky Insects to Dead Ends

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