Malaria a desperate demand. On December 2015,
Malaria is one of the most challenging
health issues in world right now. According to the data provided by WHO,
estimated 216 million malaria cases and some 445000 malaria deaths with nearly
half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria in 2016. It is caused by
the plasmodium parasites and spread to humans only through the bites of
infected mosquitoes (mainly A. gambiae), in rare cases through blood
transfusions and the sharing of needles.
Therefore, finding most efficient solution
to eradicate this health disaster in a relative ethical way became a desperate
demand. On December 2015, an interesting journal article was published on
‘Nature’, which introduced a potential way to eliminate malaria transmission.
The research was carried out by a group of scientists from Imperial
College. They successfully identified a
gene that confer a recessive female-sterility phenotype upon disruption, with
the help of newly discovered GM tool CRISPR-Cas9, a critical issue in this idea
was to ensure an sufficient subsequent generations with the recessive mutation.
Therefore it is essential to avoid somatic disruption of the wild-type allele
and allow the normal development of heterozygous mosquitoes. Along these lines
the scientists developed a CRISPR-based gene dive system designed to home, in
both sexes of the human malaria vector A. gambiae, to haplosufficient
somatically expressed female-fertility genes.
The result of this research gives a very
promising future in preventing malaria transmission. However, all the
experiments are carried out under restrict laboratory condition. Once
introducing GM mosquitos to the wild, the actual impact to the ecosystem still
remains very unpredictable. The entire specie could be potentially wiped out
which will further lead to the disruption to the food chain alone with the
potential natural selection advantage or disadvantage other than fertility to
A. gambiae specie.
After all, this was still a very excited
scientific achievement, as it not only provided new opportunities around
CRISPR-Cas9 beyond our imagination but also pushed us one step closer to a
future without malaria.