Monday, July 16, 2012
Malaria parasite killed by gene-modified germs in study
By Kristen Hallam
July 16, 2012
Benign bacteria residing in mosquitoes’ guts can be recruited to destroy the parasite that causes malaria, offering a potential way to prevent infections, according to U.S. researchers.
Genetically modifying the germ enabled it to produce proteins toxic to the parasite without harming the insects, scientists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and Duquesne University in Pittsburgh wrote today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. The proportion of mosquitoes carrying the parasite fell by as much as 84 percent, the researchers said.
Malaria kills a child in Africa every minute, and about half the world’s population is at risk of infection, according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization. New ways of stopping the disease are needed as genetic mutations in parasites make them resistant to medicines, and as mosquitoes become less vulnerable to insecticides, the researchers said.
”These findings provide the foundation for the use of genetically modified symbiotic bacteria as a powerful tool to combat malaria,” the study’s authors wrote.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Cayman’s GM mozzies may have reproduced
Cayman News Service
January 12, 2012
The genetically modified mosquitoes released in the Cayman Islands over a year ago as part of a research study on the eradication of dengue fever by the UK-based company Oxitec could have reproduced and mixed in with the local population. According to a redacted document released to GeneWatch UK following a freedom of information request in Britain, the genetically modified pests, which the manufacturer described as sterile, did produce offspring around 15 percent of which survived. During the study the GM mozzies were fed cat food containing chicken contaminated with low levels of tetracycline, which allowed the mosquitoes to reproduce with their offspring surviving to adulthood.
The international charity, Friends of the Earth, has accused the company of trying tried to hide the evidence that its technology failed to prevent reproduction.
The release of the genetically modified mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands, where there are no biosafety laws or regulations, caught the international scientific community and most residents by surprise. The release took place in East End.
The goal of Oxitec’s research was to prevent the progeny of GM mosquitoes from surviving in the wild, thereby reducing mosquito populations. However, the activist group said that failure to prevent reproduction in the presence of low levels of tetracycline is cause for concern, raising the spectre of genetically modified mosquitoes surviving and breeding, producing adult populations of GM mosquitoes, including GM females which can bite and transmit disease.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Release of genetically altered mosquitoes delayed
By Kevin Wadlow
January 04, 2012
Confusion over government permits will delay the planned release of genetically altered mosquitoes in Key West for several months.
The pilot program outlined by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District would release a test batch of about 5,000 to 10,000 mosquitoes — the Aedes aegypti species that carries dengue fever — that have been specifically bred to produce offspring that die young.
Once planned for January, any release now will can occur no sooner than “late spring,” said district Executive Director Michael Doyle.
In theory, the released male bugs with faulty breeding genes will compete with natural mosquitoes, sharply reducing the overall production of future generations. Male mosquitoes do not bite.
An international environmental group, Friends of the Earth, this month issued statements that urge a more skeptical view of what would be “the first-ever release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the U.S.”
Doyle said in an e-mail that the Friends of Earth campaign does not affect estimated time of release.
The delay mostly can be blamed on uncertainty over which state and federal agencies should review the project. Permit approval “appeared imminent several months ago,” he said.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Genetic scientists unleash power of the spider web
By Steve Connor
January 3, 2012
Breakthrough may pave way for new biomaterials that could be used in medicine and engineering
Scientists have created genetically-modified silkworms that can spin the much stronger silken threads of spiders in a technological breakthrough that promises to revolutionise the production and use of new materials made with spider silk.
For more than a quarter of a century scientists have been trying to find ways of producing industrial-scale quantities of spider silk because, weight for weight, it is stronger than steel and almost as tough as bulletproof Kevlar. A net weaved from pencil-thick rope spun from spider silk, for instance, could in theory catch a fighter jet in flight without breaking.
However, unlike the caterpillars of the silk moth Bombyx mori, spiders are territorial, aggressive and prone to cannibalism, making it impossible to rear them in the population densities required for commercial silk production.
Researchers have attempted to overcome this difficulty by transferring into silkworms the key spider genes responsible for making the silk threads used in the draglines of the golden orb-web spider. The result was a genetically-modified “transgenic” silkworm that produced a mixture of its own silk combined with the far tougher and stronger threads of spider silk within the mile-long threads of its cocoon.