Scientists have announced their experiment to effect mosquitoes ability to see human hosts using CRISPR technology. The same technology that created the ‘novel’ Coronavirus.
Female mosquitoes have nerve cells receptors that can detect carbon dioxide. Upon detection, they will instantly direct themselves at the darkest color, in hopes of finding the source of that carbon dioxide.
Aedes aegypti females hunt during the day, in search for blood in order to lay eggs. These mosquitos infect tens of millions of people each year with flaviviruses that lead to dengue, yellow fever and Zika virus.
Anopheles mosquitoes hunt at night, and are responsible for the spread of malaria. Upon smelling carbon dioxide—a sign that someone or something has just exhaled within range—sets a target for the mosquito, the closest darkest object. Due to this species, nearly 1 million people die every year.
The study showed that Anopheles mosquitos —the kind that spreads malaria and hunt at night—will immediately target their flight to the darkest location, after coming into contact with any form of Carbon Dioxide. This has been proven through experiments dating back as early as 1937, when scientists first noticed mosquitos would travel to dark clothing. This physical response got researchers in San Diego thinking.
The theory is, to use CRISPR gene editing to interfere with the mosquitos vision, they will no longer be able to fly to the darkest location and infect people.
The CRISPR Theory
“The better we understand how they sense the human, the better we can control the mosquito in an eco-friendly manner,” said Yinpeng Zhan, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the lead author on the paper.
Scientists developed a mutation that effected the “rhodopsin protein – Op1” in the mosquitos eye. This would effectively eliminate their potential to see dark colors. Dr. Zhan then injected his mutation into thousands of mosquito eggs using a small needle.
This failed, so the scientists developed another mutation to effect a similar protein, “rhodopsin – Op2”. This change, also produced no differential effect in the mosquito’s ability to see dark colors. A second failure, researchers went for a third attempt.
This time, scientists developed a mutation that would target and effectively knock out both “Op1” & “Op2” proteins. This change resulted in success, and the mosquitos flew around unable to detect a target to land on, after being introduced to carbon dioxide.
Upon further testing Dr. Zahn discovered the mosquitos were not fully blind, and could respond to different forms of light. “My first transgenic mosquito,” Dr. Zhan proudly proclaimed. “We had a happy ending.”
Post CRISPR Statements
“Nobody has studied this before,” said Neha Thakre, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego, who studies CRISPR to restructure mosquito DNA.
If female mosquitoes became unable to see hosts, they would not find blood for their eggs to develop. “The population would crash,” Dr. Craig said.
“They can also detect some of the organic cues from our skin,” stated Dr. Montell, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author on the mosquito CRISPR study.
“Every year there’s a pandemic from mosquito-borne diseases,” added Dr. Montell
A CRISPR Future
What will be the next species to be gene edited with CRISPR, and what will the future of our eco system look like if species begin to become artificially controlled by scientific manipulation? Successful CRISPR gene editing starts with mosquitos, and will move to ticks, insects, rats, birds, fish, and livestock. Could this technology negatively impact human food supply? Will CRISPR meat be the food of our future?
Is CRISPR gene editing technology becoming too available to private research and science? Harvard, now offers CRISPR Gene-Editing Courses for everyone, available online.
If CRISPR were to fall into malevolent control it could mark the end for normal life as we know it. Could CRISPR be used against us? Could biological viral warfare become a modern threat to America?
Research from 2013 indicated mosquitos attraction to carbon dioxide can also be manipulated by adjusting how their receptors perceive ‘skin odor’.
The National Institute of Health released a report indicating “Brief exposure to a chemical that shut down the mosquitoes’ carbon dioxide receptor rendered them unable to react to carbon dioxide from exhaled breath. The scientists tested the response of these mosquitoes to skin odorants by placing them in a wind tunnel with a plate of glass beads that had been worn in socks for several hours to give them the scent of human foot odor. Both Aedes aegyptiand Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes — which transmitdengue and malaria respectively — were much less attracted to the scented beads after being exposed to the chemical. These results showed that the receptor responsible for detecting carbon dioxide also detects skin odorants.”
“Chemicals previously known to block mosquitoes’ carbon dioxide receptor can’t be used around people because of unpleasant odors and health safety concerns. To identify more suitable compounds, the team developed a computer simulation method to screen almost half a million chemical compounds in search of structures that might interact with the receptor. They identified 138 compounds that were pleasant smelling, inexpensive, and considered safe for human use.”
“The researchers focused on 2 of the compounds recognized as safe for humans. Ethyl pyruvate, which has a fruity smell and is approved as a flavor agent in food, blocked attraction of mosquitoes to a human hand. Conversely, cyclopentanone, which is minty-smelling and is approved as a flavor and fragrance agent, attracted mosquitoes to a baited trap as effectively as carbon dioxide.”
“Odors that block this dual-receptor for carbon dioxide and skin odor can be used as a way to mask us from mosquitoes. On the other hand, odors that can act as attractants can be used to lure mosquitoes away from us into traps. These potentially affordable ‘mask’ and ‘pull’ strategies could be used in a complementary manner, offering an ideal solution and much needed relief to people in Africa, Asia, and South America — indeed wherever mosquito-borne diseases are endemic,” Dr. Anandasankar Ray says.
Will destroying the mosquito population effect the animal food supply chain? Are humans playing God, or is this technology something we should use to evolve humanity and ensure our species survival?