Jake (Zhijian) Tu
Controlling Zika – a Transgenic MosquitoAmbience: mosquitosThe Zika virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of a female aedes aegypti mosquito. So scientists are searching for ways to clone a transgenic mosquito, one that carries and passes on the genes for male offspring. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Jake Tu is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Virginia Tech. Tu: Chromosomes are where our DNA are housed; it’s basically where the genetic material is located. Professor Tu and his colleagues have discovered the gene that’s responsible for creating male aedes aegypti mosquitos; they call it the Nix gene.Tu: I use a technique called transgenics. You can insert pieces of DNA, in this case the Nix gene, into a different location on the chromosome. If you achieve this for one mosquito, so you have a mosquito that has a Nix gene, a chromosome and it’s accessible to both sexes, when this mosquito mate with a wild female, this transgene would be passed on. The next generation, this Nix gene is going to be converting females to males for us.It’s not easy, but what we’re trying to achieve now is to make sure all the progeny inherit this transgene. If that can be done than all the progeny would be males. We’re confident that this would work for aedes aegypti.It’ll take us at least several years because we want to do this in a deliberate way, and we want to test them in the lab first, and understand the potential risks. It will take at least several years before we can achieve this.I just want to emphasis that no technique is a silver bullet, so this has to be implemented in the context of integrated pest management.I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.