Selfish genes may drive out diseases

Genetic elements that select for their own survival could establish disease-resistance genes in insect populations

Melissa Lee Phillips
Mar 28, 2007
Researchers have come up with a new way to establish desirable genes in insect populations, according to an online Science report this week. The authors created a synthetic selfish genetic element that propagates rapidly through Drosophila populations -- an approach they say could also help drive malaria-resistance genes into mosquito populations.The approach "looks very convincing" for establishing disease-resistance genes in insect populations, said Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, who was not involved in the study. "If it works in Drosophila, I think the chances that it would work in insects of medical importance is quite high."Researchers have identified and created mosquitoes that carry genetic elements preventing them from transmitting malaria or dengue; last week, Jacobs-Lorena and his colleagues showed that one type of malaria-resistant mosquito can outcompete normal mosquitoes when feeding on infected blood, although this advantage may not be enough to...

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