RIVERSIDE, Calif. — In a warm and very humid room, behind a series of sealed doors, Omar Akbari keeps a zoo of mosquito mutants. He’s got mosquitoes with three eyes, mosquitoes with malformed mouthparts, mosquitoes with forked wings, mosquitoes with eerie white eyes, and mosquitoes that are bright yellow instead of black.
Akbari loves them unabashedly; he feeds them fish flakes, mouse blood, and sugar water and calls some of them “beautiful.” But they’re not pets: Akbari’s lab here at the University of California, Riverside, is at the leading edge of a revolutionary technology — gene drive — that could one day deploy mosquito mutants to rid the world of scourges like malaria, dengue, and Zika.
The technology is moving faster than anyone dreamed. Just three years ago, the idea of disabling or destroying entire populations of disease-causing mosquitoes using gene drives seemed a distant theoretical possibility. But advances in gene-editing have shoved the field into overdrive. And that vision is now very much in reach.
Gene drives are genetic systems that break the natural Mendelian rules of inheritance. Normally, offspring have a a 50 percent chance of inheriting any given gene from a parent. Using genetic engineering, scientists can greatly increase the odds a specific gene will be passed on. That lets them rapidly push a particular gene — say one that makes mosquitoes sterile or unable to carry the malaria parasite — through a population. And that, in turn, could — at least in theory — halt the spread of certain diseases, like malaria.
“I really think it’s solvable,” said Akbari, a molecular biologist who is in the process of moving his lab to the University of California, San Diego. “It’s not cancer. It’s not Alzheimer’s. It’s literally a mosquito biting you. We can stop that.”
Gene drive gives scientists power to hijack evolution But with that promise comes great risk. Full gene drives can spread unchecked through a population — potentially altering entire species and vast ecosystems.
That’s why the military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is spending $65 million to understand not only how gene editing technologies and gene drives work — but also how to control, counter, or reverse them. “These are very new technologies and they have a lot of unknowns associated with them,” said Safe Genes program manager Renee Wegrzyn. “The idea of having safety features built in from the start seems like a good approach.”
A normal mosquito (left) and one that has been genetically modified for yellow coloring using CRISPR.DOM SMITH/STATHere are some of the ways scientists are trying to make safer, more efficient gene drives:
Make a ton of mutantsA gene drive will only work against disease if it targets the right gene. One way to find those genes: make a lot of mutants.
Akbari recently created a new transgenic line of dengue and Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that express the Cas9 enzyme in all of their offspring. While it may seem obscure to non-scientists, the achievement has mosquito researchers buzzing because it means they no longer need to laboriously inject the gene-editing enzyme into each mosquito egg they want to edit.
In a remote West African village, a revolutionary genetic experiment is on its way — if residents agree to it Those injections are physically tricky to do under the microscope; fragile eggs often explode when injected with too much fluid. And the injections don’t always succeed.
The new transgenic line means scientists can edit genes in mosquitoes far more efficiently — perhaps injecting just 10 eggs with guide RNA instead of 500 to generate a mutation. It works so well, Akbari found he could create double and triple mutations with a single injection. Now, he’s freely sharing the mosquitoes, shipping them to other researchers in hopes of speeding up work on gene drives and mosquito genetics.
“Everyone wants them,” he said.
Ensure it takes two to tango
Akbari doesn’t want to create a full-on gene drive that could push new genes through a mosquito population with unstoppable momentum. Like many in this emerging field, he thinks it’s too risky.
“These are very new technologies and they have a lot of unknowns associated with them. The idea of having safety features built in from the start seems like a good approach.”
RENEE WEGRZYN, SAFE GENES PROGRAM MANAGER
Instead, he’s developing a “split gene drive” that requires two parts — a gene editor like the CRISPR-Cas9 system partnered with specific guide RNA that tells the editor where to cut.
Akbari’s gene drive will only work when mosquitoes encoded with the Cas9 enzyme are bred with mosquitoes encoded with guide RNA. To keep the engineered gene moving through a population, new waves of Cas9 mosquitoes must be released and start breeding. If new critters aren’t released, “it just kind of self-eliminates,” Akbari said.
Fight the resistanceOne of the biggest barriers to gene drives is natural resistance. Animals that aren’t susceptible to the gene drive — perhaps because of natural variations in their own genomes — might thrive and take over an ecosystem after a gene drive is introduced.
“It’s a race. Evolution is going to be a problem,” Akbari said. “With what we see, it seems that’s going to happen quickly.”
One way to predict these problems is to use math — to model populations and genetic changes. Akbari and John Marshall, a modeler from the University of California, Berkeley who is part of Akbari’s DARPA-funded team, recently proposed “multiplexing” or creating a gene drive that edits the same gene in multiple places. That makes it harder for any given mosquito to resist the changes the scientists are trying to impose. Think multiple drug cocktail, but with CRISPR.
NEWSLETTERSSign up for our Morning Rounds newsletterScientists are also trying to create gene drives in multiple species beyond mosquitoes — including fruit flies, nematodes, and baker’s yeast — to get a better grasp on how the engineered genes move through large populations.
Get inside a mosquito’s brainGene drives might not work as well for all varieties of mosquitoes. For example, what happens among species that mate only in swarms?
In general, little is known about the behavior of wild mosquitoes, which tend to be feistier than their laboratory brethren. To fill this gap, Craig Montell, a a fly neuroscientist at the UC Santa Barbara, plans to study sex drive, circadian rhythms, and feeding strategies in mosquitoes.
“We can’t yet even imagine the questions to ask,” Montell said. “We really are just scratching the surface of trying to understand the behavior of these animals.”
Create sex-crazed (but sterile) mosquitoesA number of labs are working to create reverse gene drives to deploy if the gene drives they release go awry. But what if those reverse gene drives fail? Montell is working on other backups.
One idea: create sterile males with high sex drives that will rush to breed with the genetically altered mosquitoes, slowing the spread of the gene drive.
Another: engineer mosquitoes that can be programmed to self-destruct when some external factor, say temperature, hits a certain threshold. This mechanism would ensure that the gene drive mosquitoes die out come summer — and then scientists could release another batch later, if needed.
Biologists: Let’s sic ‘gene drive’ on Zika-carrying mosquitoes
A mosquito embryo is infected with CRISPR-Cas9.DOM SMITH/STATTest, test, and test some moreExcited as they are about gene drives, the scientists don’t plan to release any into the wild — at least not yet. (That’s why Akbari’s lab is secured behind multiple sealed doors. His team boils all water before discarding it, to kill off any stray eggs. They even autoclave their trash.) His DARPA contract specifically forbids the release of gene drives.
Instead, Akbari’s team plans to test gene drives in the lab in progressively larger and more ecologically realistic enclosures.
Win over the humansEven if the safety issues surrounding gene drives are resolved, there’s still one big hurdle: humans.
Team member Cinnamon Bloss, an associate professor at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, studies the ethical implications of emerging technologies. And she recognizes that the public is frightened and wary.
“Scientists tend to think if people just understood the technology, they’d accept it,” she said. “I don’t think that’s the case.”
Malaria kills a half-million Africans a year. Gene-edited mosquitoes might stop it The issue is complicated, said Bloss, because it’s not feasible to get informed consent from all human residents when a technology affects large regions or even entire continents. Bloss, who has conducted much of her work on human genetics technologies, said she’s struggling to find any precedent that brings up the many ethical issues raised by gene drives.
Other teams are grappling with similar issues: In West Africa, a group called Target Malaria — funded with $70 million from the Gates Foundation — is educating residents and building support for a possible future release, years down the road, of gene drive mosquitoes.
The careful thought going into the team’s work is praised by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kevin Esvelt, a leading gene drive researcher and watchdog who also receives funding from DARPA’s Safe Genes project. Esvelt urges researchers to conduct work on gene drives openly and safely — and to involve the public in every step of the process.
The work, he said, is too important to let a slip up in a lab — something he calls “bioerror” — derail the entire field.
“There is an overwhelming moral imperative to do something about malaria,” Esvelt said in a recent phone interview. “In the time we have been talking, probably six to eight children have died.”
PDF link Here
Since it first appeared in Northern California in 2008, the spotted-wing drosophila, a type of fruit fly native to Asia, has become the bane of the state’s cherry farms because of the razor-edged “ovipositor” on its tail.
Rather than lay eggs in rotting berries, as domestic flies do, the invasive species punches holes in fruit that’s still ripening, spoiling it. The costs to U.S. agriculture: about $700 million a year.
California’s cherry growers think they may have a way to get rid of the flies cheaply. To do it, they are counting on a technology developed by geneticists: a “gene drive” that can spread DNA alterations among wild flies, potentially killing them off.
Gene-drive technology is among the most widely debated—and feared—inventions of modern biology. Opponents call it a genetic “atom bomb” and want it banned. Others see the possibility of unprecedented public health interventions, like eradicating the mosquitoes that spread malaria.
Now, for the first time, commercial uses are on the table. With funding from the California Cherry Board, scientists at the University of California, Riverside, have installed a gene drive in the invasive pest, the first time the technology has been established in a commercially important species.
The larva of a fruit fly glows red. The fluorescent marking signals that it has inherited a “gene drive,” or selfish genetic element, from its mother.
COURTESY OF OMAR AKBARI
In addition to that effort, which remains confined to the laboratory, two spinout companies from the University of California, San Diego, are also pursuing commercial use of gene drives. One, Agragene, also intends to alter plants and insects. Its sister company, Synbal, wants to harness the technology as a speedy way of engineering lab mice and possibly pet dogs.
“It’s about having genes under precise control in whatever organism you are modifying,” says David Webb, acting CEO of both UCSD spinout companies, neither of which has raised capital.
A gene drive works via a so-called selfish gene that is able to replicate itself and get inherited by most of an animal’s offspring rather than just half, as is usual. The effect is called “super-Mendelian” inheritance.
The problem is that modifying wild animals raises complex ethical and regulatory issues. Some scientists worry that gene drives could run amok—say, if laboratory animals escape and spread changes in the wild. The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has even added gene drives to a list of uses of gene-editing technology it doesn't think companies should pursue.
What’s more, any use of such a powerful technology is going to be highly regulated. Such obstacles explain why most gene-drive funding has come from either philanthropies or the military. The Gates Foundation has committed more than $75 million to engineer self-destructing malaria mosquitoes, which it thinks may be needed to wipe out that disease in Africa. This year the U.S. military research agency DARPA began spending a similar amount to develop antidotes to gene drives, should they be used as a weapon.
The California Cherry Board, which represents growers, just wants to get rid of the flies. When the pests arrived a decade ago, the orchards started spraying insecticides called pyrethroids, with trade names like Delegate and Warrior.
COURTESY OF OMAR AKBARI“This is basically the strongest chemical that there is,” says Nick Matteis, an executive with the growers’ organization. The sprays kills the flies and pretty much every other insect, too, including bees. “If you didn’t have to spray, that is a huge deal,” he says.
To the cherry growers, a gene drive looks like a precision tool that could eliminate one species among thousands. In 2013, the organization started funding development of the technology, spending about $100,000 a year, or about a third of its research budget, to have Riverside professor Omar Akbari install a gene drive in that fly’s genome.
“It’s a lot of money from their perspective, but from our end, it’s only enough to pay a salary and a few experiments,” says Akbari, an expert on insect genetics and one of the participants in the DARPA program.
Even so, by July Akbari had success with the gene drive. His technology, called Medea after the Greek sorceress who murdered her children, spread to 100 percent of flies in experiments in laboratory cages, he says.
The next step it to determine what genetic cargo to attach to the selfish gene. Female flies survive the winter because their bodies make cryoprotectants. Adding a gene to block those chemicals could cause the flies to freeze. Another possibility is genetically altering the bugs’ ovipositor so that they change their behavior.
“If you got rid of that knife or dull it, instead of stabbing ripening cherries, they would lay their egg in rotting fruit, like regular flies,” says Akbari. “The flies would still exist, but they would no longer be crop pests.”
People fear that gene drives will be unstoppable once released. In fact, scientists have a wide variety of tricks to keep them under control. In Akbari’s case, his Medea system requires a large number of insects for the chain reaction to begin—at least thousands. That means a few flies hitching a ride somewhere else in a box of cherries would be unlikely to spread the drive accidentally.
The California Cherry Board says it’s now ready to finance larger-scale laboratory studies. To pay for them, and eventually seek approval to deploy a gene drive, the farmers’ group is planning to raise funds from other fruit growers to finance a “public-benefit corporation.” The company would have, as part of its charter, a requirement to keep its technical plans and finances out in the open.
“We’ll create an entity that is basically in the trust business,” says Tom Turpen, a consultant who is advising the farmers in their formation of the new company. Otherwise, he says, opponents of GMOs would likely instigate a paralyzing public debate.
Matteis, the Cherry Board executive, says he's hopeful the public will support the plan. "Any insect considered remotely beneficial to the environment, you would have a much harder time," he says. "But this insect is a recent arrival. There would be less concern about disrupting the circle of life."
"TO GET TO work in the morning, Omar Akbari has to pass through a minimum of six sealed doors, including an air-locked vestibule. The UC Riverside entomologist studies the world’s deadliest creature: the Aedes aegyptimosquito, whose bite transmits diseases that kill millions each year. But that’s not the reason for all the extra security. Akbari isn’t just studying mosquitoes—he’s re-engineering them with self-destruct switches. And that’s not something you want accidentally escaping into the world.
The technology Akbari is designing is something called a gene drive. Think of it as a way to supercharge evolution, forcing a genetic modification to spread through an entire population in just a few generations. Scientists see it as a powerful tool that could finally vanquish diseases like malaria, dengue, and Zika. But US defense agencies see something else: a national security issue.
Last year, former director of national intelligence James Clapper added gene editing to a list of threats posed by “weapons of mass destruction and proliferation.” In July, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded $65 million in four-year contracts to seven teams of scientists, including Akbari, to study gene-editing technologies. The commitment officially made Darpa the world’s largest government funder of gene drive research. Most of that money is going toward designing safer systems and developing tools to counter rogue gene drives that might get into the environment either by accident, or with malicious intent.
That danger may be more real than scientists first thought. Four years ago, when Harvard biologist Kevin Esvelt first suggested the idea of building gene drives with the newly discovered Crispr gene editing system, he was thinking about extinction. Specifically, preventing endangered wildlife from disappearing by spreading a fertility-reducing gene through the invasive animals competing with them for resources. Conservation biologists took the idea and ran with it; they're now considering gene drives to save native birds in Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Farallones. But now, Esvelt is saying they should slow down.
That's based on the results of a new mathematical model he and his colleagues published on Thursdayon the bioRxiv preprint server.Taking into account things like how often Crispr screws up and the likelihood of protective mutations arising, their work shows how gene drives could be ruthlessly aggressive. Just a few engineered organisms could irrevocably alter an ecosystem. While Esvelt doesn't view the technology as inherently threatening, he is now preachingthat it deserves a bold new caution in how it's applied.
"The primary risk posed by gene drive technology is social," he says. "Unethical closed-door research, unwarranted fears, or unauthorized releases of gene drives will damage public trust in science and governance." He still thinks gene drives have potential to save threatened species and battle public health threats. But researchers will have to invent safer forms of the technology first. That's where the Darpa money comes in. Until very recently, gene drives have been largely theoretical—safe ones even more so. But with the new funds, scientists like Esvelt and Akbari are starting to put together the pieces to test them in real life. That starts with bugs that have a gene editor baked into their DNA from the moment of conception. In a paper published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Akbari did that for the first time in Aedes aegypti, creating mosquitoes encoded with the bacterial Cas9 enzyme.
These mosquitoes were born with white eyes instead of black ones, after Crispr/Cas9 cut out genes associated with eye pigment.
MICHELLE BUI/UC RIVERSIDECas9 is the DNA-chopping half of the Crispr gene editing system. So Akbari’s team just had to inject the other half—a bit of guide RNA—into the embryos, for Cas9 to automatically execute its patented snipping action. When they deleted a cuticle pigment gene, the mosquitoes turned from black to yellow. How about a wing development gene? Welcome to the world, flightless blood sucker. Good luck crawling your way to a human meal.
These modifications were just for show. But the skeeters with built-in Cas9 will be an important tool as we learn how to best disrupt mosquito populations. Scientists estimate they’ve only probed about 5 percent of the Aedes aegpyti genome. Which means no one knows what the vast majority of mosquito genes actually do. Now they’ll be able to more easily screen knockouts gene by gene. Maybe they’ll find one that makes the mosquito mouth a hospitable home for malaria. Or one that turns off their taste for human blood. The goal is to disrupt the animal—and the ecosystems they’re a part of—as little as possible while still eradicating disease. If you’re going to play God, the idea goes, use a light hand.
In addition to advancing a new way to study mosquito physiology, these strains represent an important building block for efficient gene drives. Normally, the technology would require expressing both Cas9 and the guide RNA together in the same location. But that could make the drive system invasive and uncontrollable. One way to control them is to keep the components separated in the genome. And that’s what Akbari is working on: a less virulent version called a split-gene drive.
His team has already started the process by breeding these Cas9 strains with mosquitoes encoded with guide RNAs. “The only way to keep the drive spreading is to continuously release Cas9 into the population,” Akbari says. “That makes it confinable to a laboratory setting or self-limiting in the wild as the drive will depend on the presence of Cas9 which gets inherited in a Mendelain fashion.
Another way to do that is a “daisy drive,” which is what Esvelt is developing in nematodes on the DoD’s dime. It works by equipping the worms with a self-exhausting supply of genetic fuel. By splitting into three or more parts and then daisy-chaining them together, the desired modification disperses quickly right when you introduce it, but fizzles out after a while. The result is temporary, controlled gene editing of a local species. That’s the idea anyway. Other Darpa-backed groups are working on having a backstop should systems like these go awry, or worse, be released as part of a biological attack.
Teams at the Broad Institute and Harvard Medical school are screening and compiling a suite of chemical off-switches to block gene editors like Crispr/Cas9 and Talens. At UC Berkeley, Jennifer Doudna’s group is hoping to find anti-Crispr proteins to inhibit unwanted gene-editing activity, which would help design resistance-proof gene drives. While the military’s involvement has some in the public concerned about weaponized, Crispr-ized superskeeters, Esvelt sees defense department support as the only way to advance gene drive technologies safely, at least for the time being.
The Darpa program explicitly prevents the release of gene-drive organisms and requires participants to work under stringent biosafety conditions—hence Akbari’s six-door entrance and exit routine. Perhaps one day he’ll have the molecular tools to come and go without concern. But for now, they’re still the safest thing between his gene-drives and the world outside."
UCR RESEARCHERS ARE GENERATING GENETICALLY ENGINEERED INSECTS TO HELP PREVENT THE SPREAD OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES. PDF
Read full article here. pdf
Dr. Akbari quotes:
“I found both of [the studies] exciting in different ways,” molecular biologist Omar Akbari of the University of California, Riverside, says. “I really hope to see these technologies tested in the field.”
CRISPR-based methods do involve putting more complicated molecular machinery into cells, Akbari says, but they could also prove more reliable than the new approach, which relies on complex mating dynamics. “I think gene drive is probably a more powerful technology that’s portable across species,” he says.
ucr_today__ucr_uc_davis_center_to_fight_vector-borne_diseases.pdfUCR, UC Davis Center to Fight Vector-Borne Diseases Center is Powered by $8 Million CDC Grant. pdf
WE ALL DREAM TO SPLICE THE GENES
The CRISPR//Cas9 gene editing tool has quickly earned a reputation as a revolutionary technology, and its merits support the clout. This year has, in fact, seen so many CRISPR-related breakthroughs that it’s worthwhile to take a step back and take in all of the many accomplishments.
1. This week, circulating reports about the successful application of gene-editing human embryos in the US were confirmed by a research paper published in Nature. The researchers “corrected” one-cell embryo DNA to remove the MYBPC3 gene — known to cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a heart disease that affects 1 in 500 people.
2. This year, scientists successfully used gene editing to completely extract HIV from a living organism, with repeated success across three different animal models. In addition to the complete removal of the virus DNA, the team also prevented the progress of acute latent infection.
3. Semi-synthetic organisms were developed by breeding E.coli bacteria with an anomalous six-letter genetic code, instead of the normal four-base sequence. Additional gene editing was implemented to ensure that the new DNA molecules were not identified as an invasive presence.
4. The CRISPR method successfully targeted the “command center” of cancer — called the hybrid fusion — which leads to abnormal tumor growths. A “cut-and-paste” method allowed the creation of a cancer-annihilating gene that shrinks tumors in mice carrying human prostate and liver cancer cells.
5. Scientists also slowed the growth of cancerous cells, by targeting Tudor-SN, a key protein in cell division. It’s expected that this technique could also slow the growth of fast-growing cells.
6. Gene editing techniques have also made superbugs kill themselves. By adding antibiotic resistant gene sequences into bacteriophage viruses, self-destructive mechanisms are triggered which protect bacteria.
7. Gene editing may even make mosquito-born diseases an extinct phenomenon. By hacking fertility genes, scientists have gained the ability to limit the spread of mosquitoes — a success they credit to CRISPR’s ability to make multiple genetic code changes simultaneously.
8. Using CRISPR, researchers have edited out Huntington’s disease from mice, pushing the symptomatic progression of the condition into reverse. Experts expect this promising technique to be applied to humans in the near future.
9. Outside of the medical field, CRISPR might also provide a more abundant and sustainable biofuel. By connecting several gene-editing tools, scientists engineered algae that produce twice the biofuel material as wild (or “natural”) counterparts.
10. Very recently, the first-ever “molecular recorder” was developed — a gene editing process that encodes a film directly into DNA code — and with this ability, scientists embedded information into an E.coli genome.
11. Last but not least, and on the macro-scale, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) invested $65 million in a project called “safe genes,”designed to improve the accuracy and safety of CRISPR editing techniques. In addition to serving the public interest of avoiding accidental or intentional (cue ominous music) misuse, the seven research teams will remove engineered genes from environments to return them to baseline “natural” levels.
UC Riverside-led Team Wins $14.9 Million to Battle Disease-carrying Mosquitoes
"DARPA award is the largest ever for a UCR researcher"
DARPA funds UCSD gene drive research against mosquito-borne diseases
Building the Safe Genes Toolkit
Small Pest, Big Battle
UC San Diego Researchers Join $14.9 Million Fight Against Disease-transmitting Mosquitoes
Defense department pours $65 million into making CRISPR safer
How will we keep controversial gene drive technology in check?http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/07/how-will-we-keep-controversial-gene-drive-technology-check
DARPA Awards $65M to Improve Gene-Editing Safety, Accuracy
Zika, dengue, yellow fever: UC Riverside researcher gets $14.9 million to thwart disease-carrying mosquitoes
UC Davis Joins DARPA-funded “Safe Genes” Program
UC San Diego researchers selected for DARPA project against mosquito-borne diseaseshttps:
UC Zika research aims to ‘collapse’ mosquito populations
Importantly these guidelines may be adopted in the future to help provide information to stakeholders regarding regulatory oversight of articles, including substances, for use in or on mosquitoes (e.g. genetically modified mosquitoes or perhaps even gene drives).
Click here for a pdf of the document.
"Examples of New Animal Drugs (regulated by FDA)
Dr. Akbari Quoted
"This year, his advocacy has begun to bear fruit. Researchers and policymakers worldwide have been discussing the technology, and a report from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine urged that gene-drive research proceed, but cautiously. Omar Akbari, who studies gene drives at the University of California, Riverside, believes Esvelt’s outreach has focused public attention — and attracted funding — for a nascent technology at just the right time. “I attribute that to Kevin,” says Akbari. “It’s difficult for a scientist to do what he’s done.”
Nova Next - For Gene Drives, Resistance May Be Inevitable. pdf
Professor Akbari said this about how the severity of the effect of resistance in gene drive is dependent on the ultimate goal:
"If you’re able to block all disease [Dengue] transmission for a few weeks, that could essentially eliminate the virus. So you don’t need it to last indefinitely [versus if the goal was to create a lasting alteration for a disease like Zika]. "
The best way to get rid of mosquitoes? Turn them all into males. pdf
www.wsj.com/articles/mosquitoes-are-deadly-so-why-not-kill-them-all-1472827158Mosquitoes Are Deadly, So Why Not Kill Them All? pdf
Zika virus’s spread adds urgency to gene editing that could allow scientists to program the insects to die off, but the idea is fraught with quandaries.
"Prof. Akbari at UC Riverside is using Crispr/Cas9 to design a gene-drive system that would inactivate a fertility gene in female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and then pass on the inactivated gene. That would sterilize future generations of females.
He hopes to test the system within the next several months. “We’re working as fast as we can,” Prof. Akbari says."
www.deutschlandfunk.de/die-gen-bombe-kettenreaktion-gegen-zika-malaria-und-co.740.de.html?dram:article_id=363534 - pdf; Translated -pdf; mp3
"Omar Akbari, University of California Riverside: "If you want to destroy a biological kind in the world, for example, Aedes aegypti, the Zika supercarrier, this is now possible A new technique turns off vital genes of the mosquito and spreads itself in a way. . chain reaction Sometime breaks the whole population together - and you have eradicated this way."
San Diego Union Tribune. A path forward for gene drive technologies. pdf
"UC Riverside’s Akbari put in a plug for more research dollars in Southern California to develop and test gene drive technologies.“Developing these systems takes a lot of effort and time and they are very complex,” Akbari said. “So funding the right groups would be important, and opening up larger collaborative efforts.
“In California we have a pretty good team of people working on this goal. We have Bruce Hay at Caltech, Tony James at UC Irvine, Ethan Bier, and me. We’re all really close to each other, about an hour’s drive of each lab. So I think having a collaborative grant where we could come together and work on these technologies would be really nice, and we don’t have that yet.”
Nova Next. Editing Out Pesticides. pdf
“We’re taking multiple approaches. The ideal approach would be to eradicate the pest—develop a catalytic gene drive system that you could release into a population that can spread invasively,” says Omar Akbari, a molecular biologist at UC Riverside. “And as it spreads, the population declines without the use of insecticides.”
UCR Today. Rio Olympics from A to Z. pdf
Professor Akbari said this about Zika and the Olympics:
“It is estimated that 1/2 million visitors will travel to Brazil for the 2016 Olympics, and it is important that these travelers exercise extreme caution as related to Zika. In Brazil, Zika still poses a significant threat with a total of 166,000 suspected cases, and counting, thus far. As recommended by the CDC, pregnant women should avoid the games completely, and individuals with pregnant partners should abstain from sexual contact for the duration of the pregnancy, and upon returning home from the games. In addition, all visitors should take the necessary steps to prevent mosquito bites, both during the games and for several weeks after returning home.”