Mosquito immune system engineered to block malaria
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute have genetically engineered the immune system of the Anopheles mosquito to block the transmission of malaria to humans. To do this, the team genetically engineered Anopheles mosquitoes to produce higher than normal levels of the immune system protein Rel2 when they fed on blood. Rel2 acts against the malaria parasite by launching an immune attack involving a variety of anti-parasitic molecules. Instead of introducing a new gene into the mosquito DNA, the researchers used one of the insect’s own genes to strengthen its parasite-fighting capabilities. Additionally, the genetically modified mosquitos lived as long, and laid as many eggs, as non-modified mosquitoes, suggesting that they would be able to live and compete in the wild.