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CRISPR enables genetic modification chain reaction to spread a gene through a whole population. This could be employed to wipe out malaria.


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CRISPR chain reaction could be used to spread malaria resistance through all mosquitoes:

Researchers describe a technique for creating mutations that invade the genome and transmit themselves across to the next generation with near 100% success, defying the classic laws of Mendelian genetics. 

It is the latest—and some say, most impressive—example of gene drive: biasing inheritance to spread a gene rapidly through a population, or even an entire species. 

At this level of efficiency, a single mosquito equipped with a parasite-blocking (it blocks transmission, doesn't kill the parasites) gene could in theory spread malaria resistance through an entire breeding population in a single season.

A collaboration is under way, based on this study, to do just that.

Science has compiled some of its recent research papers, commentaries, and news articles on CRISPR and its implications in a special collection.

What a clever way to potentially eradicate malaria. 

The original article is: "The mutagenic chain reaction: A method for converting heterozygous to homozygous mutations" (Published Online March 19 2015) by Valentino M. Gantz and Ethan Bier.

There's also an accompanying summary by John Bohannon: "Biologists devise invasion plan for mutations" (Science 20 March 2015: Vol. 347 no. 6228 p. 1300). 

Note that this research has been discussed on PandaWhale since 2012:

http://pandawhale.com/post/2346/engineering-mosquitos-to-reject-malaria-ars-technica

Reddit comment:

So the idea is to turn several different species of mosquitoes into genetically modified organisms, in order to cause the extinction of a protozoan species? Personally I think it's an extremely intriguing idea with great potential, but there's undoubtedly going to be some ethical objections from certain people.

Many people around the world are still scared of GMO food, something tells me they would be even more scared of wild GMO mosquitoes.

And another:

The work shows that a gene can spread through populations faster than previously possible, essentially a hack of the evolutionary process. This has incredible potential (good and bad) for engineering of entire populations.

Google Alphabet is interested:

Alphabet, Google’s new holding company and moonshot incubator, may soon take a crack at a longtime obsession of biological researchers: Deploying genetically modified mosquitoes to fight disease. That’s a particular interest of Linus Upson, a Google engineering VP who co-created the Chrome browser but left that team last October.

The Information reported yesterday that Upson has voiced this interest internally. But, the publication noted, it is unclear if Google has hired any scientists for the endeavor.

It has talked to one, Re/code has learned. George Church, a leading geneticist and molecular engineer at Harvard University, said he has had discussions with both Upson and Alphabet chief Larry Page about his research that uses CRISPR, a powerful gene-editing technique.

Google declined to comment.

Some companies are relying on similar genetic editing with mosquitoes for profit, such as a pesticide alternative. Church said that Page and Upson have primarily expressed interest in the technology’s ability to combat diseases like malaria and dengue fever. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded this type of research. “We’re not anticipating it will be a commercial success,” Church said. “It might be easier to go the philanthropic route through the Gates Foundation or Google.”

The scale of the health issue is massive, suiting Alphabet’s aim: Around 3.2 billion people are at risk of malaria, which caused an estimated half a million deaths in 2013, according to the World Health Organization. An estimated 390 million people are infected with dengue fever yearly.

Reddit comments:

https://reddit.com/r/Futurology/comments/3hatf1/google_already_consulted_with_top_geneticist_on/

https://reddit.com/r/Futurology/comments/3i2p2l/this_week_in_science_growing_a_human_brain/

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