Life science researchers at Virginia Tech have accelerated a game-changing technology that's being used to study one of the planet's most lethal disease-carrying animals. Writing in an article published online on March 16, 2015 in PNAS, researchers revealed an improved way to study genes in mosquitoes using a genome-editing method known as CRISPR-Cas9, which exploded onto the life science scene in 2012. Editing the genome of an organism allows scientists to study it by deleting certain genes to observe how the organism is affected, or even to add new genes. The new CRISPR-Cas9 technique makes the editing process more efficient and may accelerate efforts to develop novel mosquito-control or disease-prevention strategies. "We've cut the human capital it takes to evaluate genes in disease-carrying mosquitoes by a factor of 10," said Dr. Zach N. Adelman, an Associate Professor of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech and a member of the Fralin Life Science Institute. "Not a lot of research groups have the resources to spend four months working with up to 5,000 mosquito embryos to investigate a gene that may ultimately have no bearing on their work. Now they can potentially do the same investigation in a week." Mosquitoes transmit pathogens that cause malaria, dengue fever, and other high-impact diseases. In 2013, malaria killed an estimated 584,000 people, most of them young children, according to the World Health Organization. Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and a philanthropist who supports social and health causes, has called the mosquito the world's deadliest animal. "The mosquito is incredibly important as far as transmission of disease," said Dr. Kevin M.
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