Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


University of California Scientists Create Malaria-Blocking Mosquitoes


New insect model may help eradicate disease that sickens millions annually

Using a groundbreaking gene editing technique, University of California scientists have created a strain of mosquitoes capable of rapidly introducing malaria-blocking genes into a mosquito population through its progeny, ultimately eliminating the insects’ ability to transmit the disease to humans.

Jim Gathany / CDC

An Anopheles stephensi mosquito obtains a blood meal from a human host through its pointed proboscis. A known malarial vector, the species can found from Egypt all the way to China.

This new model represents a notable advance in the effort to establish an antimalarial mosquito population, which with further development could help eradicate a disease that sickens millions worldwide each year.

To create this breed, researchers at the Irvine and San Diego campuses inserted a DNA element into the germ line of Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes that resulted in the gene preventing malaria transmission being passed on to an astonishing 99.5 percent of offspring. A. stephensi is a leading malaria vector in Asia.

... more about:
»DNA »UCI »ability »genes »malaria »mosquitoes

The study underlines 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. Results appear this week in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This opens up the real promise that this technique can be adapted for eliminating malaria,” said Anthony James, Distinguished Professor of molecular biology & biochemistry and microbiology & molecular genetics at UCI.

For nearly 20 years, the James lab has focused on engineering anti-disease mosquitoes. His anti-dengue fever models have been tested in cage trials in Mexico, and in 2012, he helped show 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, UC San Diego biologists Ethan Bier and Valentino Gantz working with fruit flies 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 two groups collaborated to fuse Bier and Gantz’s method with James’ mosquitoes. Gantz packaged antimalaria genes with a Cas9 enzyme (which can cut DNA) and a guide RNA to create a genetic “cassette” that, when injected into a mosquito embryo, targeted a highly specific spot on the germ line DNA to insert the antimalaria antibody genes.

To ensure that the element carrying the malaria-blocking antibodies had reached the desired DNA site, the researchers included in the cassette a protein that gave the progeny red fluorescence in the eyes. Almost 100 percent of offspring – 99.5 percent, to be exact – exhibited this trait, which James said is an amazing result for such a system that can change inheritable traits.

He added that further testing will be needed to confirm the efficacy of the antibodies and that this could eventually lead to field studies. “This is a significant first step,” said James, a National Academy of Sciences member. “We know the gene works. The mosquitoes we created are not the final brand, but we know this technology allows us to efficiently create large populations.”

Bier, a professor of biology at UC San Diego, also noted that “the ability of this system to carry large genetic payloads should have broad applications to the future use of related Crispr-based ‘active genetic’ systems.”

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.

Nijole Jasinskiene, Olga Tatarenkova, Aniko Fazekas and Vanessa Macias of UCI contributed to the study, which was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (AI070654, NS029870, AI29746 and AI116433) and the W.M. Keck Foundation and a gift from Drs. Sarah Sandell and Michael Marshall (to Bier).

About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UC Irvine faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UC Irvine news, visit Additional resources for journalists may be found at

Contact Information
Tom Vasich
Director of Research Communications
Phone: 949-824-6455

Tom Vasich | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: DNA UCI ability genes malaria mosquitoes

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>