LabGrown Mosquitoes Get EPA Okay

first_imgLet us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Watch: Dolphin Leaps Feet Away From Unsuspecting SurferNASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This Weekend Stay on targetcenter_img Mosquitos are kinda the bane of human existence. Even more so than other people, mosquitos have been responsible for more dead people than any other species on earth. So, naturally, scientists have been working on some plans to rejigger the critters to make them… a bit less deadly. The first of these projects, reengineered mosquitoes that can deliver toxic bacteria to their friends, just got Environmental Protection Agency approval. That positions the tech at the latest front not only on humans’ long-running war against disease, but in the bout of genetic engineering rules and regulations.This technique essentially takes lab-grown mosquitoes and intentionally infects them with Wolbachia pipientis. Later, those insects are released into the wild, and that’s when things get serious. As the lab-grown males mate with wild females, they produce stunted offspring. Pipientis mucks with the development of male chromosomes in new offspring, so eggs from these males don’t develop properly. The result? Dramatically fewer pests without any pumping dangerous poisons into the environment.The method is based on an older process that used radiation to sterilize bugs. That method was used in the 70s and 80s to eradicate pests like screwworm.Science journal, Nature, broke the news. MosquitoMate, the company marketing the technique has officially registered the Asian Tiger mosquito as a new biological pesticide and maintains a multi-year license for sale and use in 20 American states.“It’s a non-chemical way of dealing with mosquitoes, so from that perspective, you’d think it would have a lot of appeal,” David O’Brochta, an entomologist at the University of Maryland told Nature. “I’m glad to see it pushed forward, as I think it could be potentially really important.”It’s a bit early to tell just how effective this will be, but there’s some great promise. The plan is to severely curtail some of the most pernicious and frightening diseases carried by the blood-sucking parasites. Zika, West Nile, Dengue, and, of course, Malaria, though that’s less of a problem in the states. This is just the first major step humans are taking in a new push to genetically modify the life around us to suit our preferences. Concerning as it sounds, the motivations are solid. Who would argue that we shouldn’t try to save lives?“Barrier sprays often include chemicals that can kill good insects (not just mosquitoes),” the company’s website reads. “Additionally, barrier sprays do not reach many of the small places where mosquitoes hide and lay eggs. Barrier sprays can knock down mosquito populations, but the effectiveness wears off quickly, which requires more spraying.”As people gain more control over the genome in ourselves and other species, we can surely expect similar arguments. That could be a very exciting time — an era where we wipe out diseases left and right — but it could also be a troubling one. A bit like unleashing a genetic pandora on terrestrial life. Who’s to say where it ends?For now, it seems, there’s a limit on deployment, but soon this could be nationwide. Part of me wants to be wary — this seems like the first half of so many bio-horror movies — but the science looks good. Here’s hoping it all turns out well.last_img

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