The development of gene drive technology promises to overcome many of the roadblocks that so far have hampered the eradication of malaria in resource poor countries. My group have utilised this technology to spread genetic modifications impairing mosquito reproductive capability either targeting genes involved in female fertility or inducing male sex bias in the progeny. This works using a class of engineered enzymes that cut unique DNA sequences known as homing endonucleases (HEG) at defined chromosomal locations. During meiosis the cleavage site is repaired by homologous recombination using as a template the allele carrying the HEG, thereby increasing the frequency of the genetic modification in the progeny.
Recently, my laboratory’s work has demonstrated that CRISPR/CAS9 can be programmed to attack a conserved region of the sex determination gene, doublesex, which impairs female development and could spread effectively to 100% of the population in a few generations, and thereby causing population collapse. This remarkable breakthrough has important implications, well beyond malaria, for the field of synthetic biology and gene editing as whole, and will inform advances in the control of other vector-borne diseases, of agricultural pests threatening our food security, and of invasive species in fragile ecosystems.
More recently I have coordinated the study of Vo' Euganeo, a pilot study of great importance on the first outbreak of Covid-19 in Italy, with results that have been instructive to implement virus control measures both nationally and in other countries, and joined a dedicated high-caliber task force for the management of the emergency in the Region of Veneto.
Visit the Crisanti Lab website
Lucy Collyns, email@example.com
Research Projects funding enquiries:
Clelia Supparo, firstname.lastname@example.org
Science moves closer to killing malaria with mutant mosquitos (WIRED)
Giving Malaria a Deadline (The New York Times)
A new genetic-engineering technology could spell the end for malaria (The Economist)
Mosquitoes ‘tricked into extinction’ (The Times)
Gene editing wipes out mosquitoes in the lab (BBC)
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