Thursday, November 17, 2011

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

In an article in the New York Times, researchers reported early successes in genetically engineering mosquitoes to pass lethal genes on to their offspring. This gene would kill the young mosquitoes before adulthood, which would help curb diseases like dengue fever and malaria. Although this would have clearly have positive effects for society, some people are worried that there has not been adequate research done to justify releasing such a large population of genetically modified creatures into the environment without the possibility of recall. Work is being done to attempt to suppress the reproductive ability of these new mosquitoes in order to prevent some unforeseen consequence. Only male mosquitoes would be released, and females are the ones that bite and spread disease, so there should be little environmental impact and ideally the project would be able to just eliminate the disease. There is a possibility that the mosquitoes could develop a resistance to the lethal gene in the lab and still be released inadvertently and cause serious problems. Despite the concerns, this is still potentially a huge step in eradicating mosquito-borne disease.

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