Gene drive technology gets trial run

An Ae. Aegypti mosquito, a primary vector for the transmission of dengue fever, gets a blood meal from a host. ©Centers for Disease Control

Researchers have launched the first large-scale laboratory release of mosquitos genetically engineered using a gene editing technique that some biologists believe holds promise for combating an array of problems, from malaria to invasive rodents. NPR reports that biologists in a high-security laboratory in Italy are studying the mosquitos, which were engineered with a gene drive technique using CRISPR gene-editing technology. The technique is intended to spread physical traits, which prevent the mosquitos from biting or laying eggs, throughout the population. Skeptics worry about the implications of a gene drive gone awry in the real world, but supporters see hope in reducing disease and protecting endangered species and fragile ecosystems.

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