It’s that time of year… mosquito season. Mosquitoes are responsible for quite a bit of disease spread, including yellow fever, malaria, dengue, and canine heartworm, just to name a few. In the case of Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito, the females are the problem – males don’t bite, and therefore won’t spread disease. So researchers are getting creative: what if they could turn female mosquitoes into males?
It sounds like science fiction, especially if you’ve seen Jurassic Park. But there’s something to this! Researchers identified a gene, called Nix, that is active in male embryos, and when they injected female embryos with a piece of DNA containing Nix, about half of them developed male genitals.
So how can this help combat disease? Well, if this method can really turn female embryos into fully-functioning male mosquitoes, and the Nix gene can be passed on to offspring, these modified mosquitoes could breed with wild populations and only produce male offspring, eventually eliminating the population.
This research is in its early stages, but it’s certainly interesting! Read more about it here.