GS Paper - 3 (Biotechnology)

Leveraging advancements in CRISPR-based genetic engineering, researchers have created a system that restrains populations of mosquitoes that infect millions each year with debilitating diseases. The “precision-guided sterile insect technique” (pgSIT), alters genes linked to male fertility—creating sterile offspring—and female flight in Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species responsible for spreading diseases including dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika, the University of California, San Diego said.

What

  1. The pgSIT uses CRISPR to sterilise male mosquitoes and render female mosquitoes (which spread disease) flightless.
  2. The system is self-limiting and is not predicted to persist or spread in the environment, two safety features that should enable acceptance for this technology.
  3. The scientists say pgSIT eggs can be shipped to a location threatened by mosquito-borne disease or developed at an on-site facility that could produce the eggs for nearby deployment.
  4. Once the pgSIT eggs are released in the wild, sterile pgSIT males will emerge and eventually mate with females, driving down the wild population as needed.

Flashback

  1. CRISPR (clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technology is a simple yet powerful tool for editing genomes.
  2. It allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.
  3. Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops.