University of California, Riverside (UCR) researchers have developed
transgenic mosquitoes that stably express the Cas9 enzyme in their germline.
Cas9 enables the use of the CRISPR gene editing tool to make efficient,
targeted changes to the mosquitoes' DNA.
The researchers used CRISPR to disrupt cuticle, wing, and eye development,
producing completely yellow, three-eyed and wingless mosquitoes. Their
long-term goal is to use Cas9-expressing mosquitoes together with gene
drives to insert and spread genes that suppress the insects while avoiding
the resistance that evolution would typically favor. Aedes aegypti are major
carriers of denque, chikungunya, yellow fever, and zika viruses, and are
rapidly becoming resistant to commonly used pesticides.
The study was led by Omar Akbari, assistant professor of entomology in UCR's
College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. He said these strains
represent the first step towards using gene drive systems to control
mosquito populations and reduce the diseases they spread.