Malaria is one of the world’s leading health problems. More than 40 percent of the world’s population live in areas where there is a risk of contracting the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 300 million to 500 million cases of malaria occur each year, and nearly 1 million people die of the disease annually, largely infants, young children and pregnant women, most of them in Africa.
Earlier studies from the lab focused on engineering anti-disease mosquitoes. Their anti-dengue fever models were tested in cage trials in Mexico, and in 2012, their results showed that antibodies that impair the parasite’s biology adapted from the immune systems of mice can be introduced into mosquitoes. This trait, though, could only be inherited by about half of the progeny. Earlier this year, whilst working with fruit flies, the group announced the development of a new method for generating mutations in both copies of a gene. This mutagenic chain reaction involved using the Crispr-associated Cas9 nuclease enzyme and allowed for transmission of mutations through the germ line with an inheritance rate of 95 percent. The current study packaged antimalaria genes with a Cas9 enzyme, which can cut DNA, and a guide RNA to create a genetic ‘cassette’ that targeted a highly specific spot on the germ line DNA to insert the antimalaria antibody genes in a a mosquito embryo.
The current study inserted a DNA element into the germ line of Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes, a leading malaria vector in Asia, that resulted in the gene preventing malaria transmission being passed on to offspring. The team stress that to ensure that the element carrying the malaria-blocking antibodies had reached the desired DNA site, they included in the cassette a protein that gave the progeny red fluorescence in the eyes. Results show that almost 100 percent of offspring, 99.5 percent, to be exact, exhibited this trait.
The team surmise that their findings underline the growing utility of the Crispr method, a powerful gene editing tool that allows access to a cell’s nucleus to snip DNA to either replace mutated genes or insert new ones and opens up the real promise that this technique can be adapted for eliminating malaria. For the future, the researchers state that further testing will be needed to confirm the efficacy of the antibodies and that this could eventually lead to field studies. They go on to conclude that the mosquitoes developed are not the final brand and this technology will them to efficiently create large populations.
Michelle Petersen is the founder of Healthinnovations, having worked in the health and science industry for over 21 years, which includes tenure within the NHS and Oxford University. Healthinnovations is a publication that has reported on, influenced, and researched current and future innovations in health for the past decade.
Michelle has been picked up as an expert writer for Informa publisher’s Clinical Trials community, as well as being listed as a blog source by the world’s leading medical journals, including the acclaimed Nature-Springer journal series.
Healthinnovations is currently indexed by the trusted Altmetric and PlumX metrics systems, respectively, as a blog source for published research globally. Healthinnovations is also featured in the world-renowned BioPortfolio, BioPortfolio.com, the life science, pharmaceutical and healthcare portal.
Most recently the Texas A&M University covered The Top 10 Healthinnovations series on their site with distinguished Professor Stephen Maren calling the inclusion of himself and his team on the list a reflection of “the hard work and dedication of my students and trainees”.
Michelle Petersen’s copy was used in the highly successful marketing campaign for the mega-hit film ‘Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Jack Black, Karen Gilian, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Michelle Petersen’s copywriting was part of the film’s coverage by the Republic TV network. Republic TV is the most-watched English language TV channel in India since its inception in 2017.
An avid campaigner in the fight against child sex abuse and trafficking, Michelle is a passionate humanist striving for a better quality of life for all humans by helping to provide traction for new technologies and techniques within healthcare.