Mosquitoes are perhaps the most dangerous animals in the world. They are the primary vectors for major human diseases such as yellow fever, zika, dengue fever, and malaria, which together infect hundreds of millions of humans worldwide, killing millions each year, with over 50% of the world’s population presently at risk (WHO). There are currently no effective vaccines for either dengue fever, ZIKA or malaria, and mosquitoes including the disease-causing agents they transmit are rapidly evolving resistance to commonly used pesticides and anti-malarial drugs, respectively. Therefore, given the number of infections and deaths, current approaches for prevention of mosquito-borne diseases are immeasurably inefficient. What remains critical for vector control is the development of catalytic approaches requiring only small efforts that can generate long lasting solutions. With rapid advances in insect genetic engineering, mathematical modeling of wild populations, synthetic biology, and the comprehensive understanding of dengue and plasmodium lifecycles in mosquitoes, unique opportunities have arisen to affect prevention of infectious diseases through genetic manipulation of wild insect vector populations. Our research focuses on studying the basic genetics and physiology of mosquitoes with the overall goal of developing innovative, novel, creative, synthetic biology inspired genetic control technologies for reducing the burden of mosquito-borne diseases on humans. The underlying hypothesis inspiring this work is that the introduction and spread of genes that prevent mosquitoes from transmitting pathogens should, in theory, lead to reduced transmission of these pathogens resulting in reductions of human infections and/or death. To test this hypothesis, we first need a broad understanding of the biology of the mosquito that can be used to develop gene-based strategies for engineering mosquitoes that are resistant to pathogens; secondly, we need to engineer mosquitoes that are resistant to all types of infections; and lastly, we need to develop tools to rapidly “drive” these laboratory developed genes into wild mosquito populations. Together, these aims can conceivably provide a foundation that has the potential to revolutionize vector control of mosquitoes.
- 04/19/2017 - New article published in Scientific Reports entitled "Generation of heritable germline mutations in the jewel wasp Nasonia vitripennis using CRISPR/Cas9"
- 04/05/2017 -Akbari and Woodard Lab receive joint UCR seed funding for project entitled "Development of the first ever gene disruption technique for bumble bees."
- 03/01/2017 -Congratulations to graduate student Michelle Bui for receiving a NSF-NICE (NRT Integrated Computational Entomology) fellowship to support her research efforts!! Great job! read more here
- 12/23/2016 - New article published in bioRxiv entitled "Generation of heritable germline mutations in the jewel wasp Nasonia vitripennis using CRISPR/Cas9"
- 12/16/2016 - Akbari Lab receives NIH-NIAID-R21 Grant entitiled " Developing reciprocal chromosomal translocations for wild population replacement in an important vector of human disease" to support research efforts.
- 11/17/2016 - New article published in bioRxiv entitled "Engineered reciprocal chromosome translocations drive high threshold, reversible population replacement in Drosophila"
- 11/17/2016 - New article published in bioRxiv entitled "Overcoming evolved resistance to population-suppressing homing-based gene drives"
- 10/10/2016 - Akbari Lab receives USDA-NIFA subaward to engineer the Asian Citrus Psyllid to combat HLB.
- 10/04/2016 - New article published in Development entitled "Mapping a multiplexed zoo of mRNA expression"
- 07/01/2016 - Akbari Lab receives an Omnibus Travel grant from the division of the Academic Senate @ UCR.
- 06/09/2016 -Akbari Lab receives the 2016-2017 sophomore STEM fund from UCR to support research efforts.
- 05/23/2016 - New article published in Current Biology entitled "Male-Killing Spiroplasma Alters Behavior of the Dosage Compensation Complex during Drosophila melanogaster Embryogenesis."
- 05/15/2016 - Akbari Lab receives grant from the California Cherry Board to support research.
- 04/14/2016 - Akbari Lab receives second private grant from www.maxmind.com to support research.
- 04/12/2016 - New article published in PNAS entitled "Radical remodeling of the Y chromosome in a recent radiation of malaria mosquitoes."
- 04/11/2016 - Akbari Lab receives HATCH grant from the USDA.
- 03/17/2016 - New article published in Nature Review Genetics entitled "Cheating evolution: engineering gene drives to manipulate the fate of wild populations."
- 02/03/2016 - Congratulations to graduate student Stephanie Gamez for receiving a summer diversity fellowship from the graduate division @ UCR to support her summer research!
- 11/04/2015 - Book Chapter published in Genetic Control of Malaria and Dengue, 1st Edition entitled "Chapter 9 - Gene Drive Strategies for Population Replacement."
- 10/31/2015 - Akbari Lab receives private grant from www.maxmind.com to support research.
- 10/13/2015 - New article published in Genes, Genetics and Genomics (G3) entitled "Identification of Genes Uniquely Expressed in the Germ-Line Tissues of the Jewel Wasp Nasonia vitripennis."
- 10/05/2015 - New article published in Current Biology entitled "Vectored antibody gene delivery mediates long-term contraception."
- 09/31/2015 - Akbari Lab receives an NIH-NIAID K22 Career Transition award entitled "Synthetically engineering population control systems in vectors of human disease" to support research efforts.
- 08/28/2015 - New article published in Science entitled "Safeguarding gene drive experiments in the laboratory."
- 08/01/2015 - Lab Opens Doors.