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 dengue, 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.
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