Genetically Engineering the Fate of Wild Insect Populations to Combat Vectored Disease

Monday, October 20, 2014 - 9:00am
Event Type: 

Vector Entomology interview seminar: E164 Lagomarcino Hall

Omar Akbari, Division of Biological Engineering, Californai Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

Abstract: Insects act as vectors for diseases of plants, animals and humans. Replacement of wild insect populations with genetically modified individuals unable to transmit disease provides an environmentally friendly, sustainable, and self-perpetuating method for disease prevention. However, transgenes that mediate disease refractoriness are unlikely to confer an overall fitness benefit on insects that carry them. Additionally, wild populations are large, partially reproductively isolated, and dispersed over wide areas. Therefore, population replacement requires a gene drive mechanism in order to spread linked genes mediating disease refractoriness through wild populations at greater than Mendelian frequencies. To address this problem, we previously reported on the creation of several synthetic selfish genetic elements able to drive population replacement in Drosophila melanogaster. Here I plan to describe the genetic behavior of these systems, including current progress and future plans for the development of these systems in mosquitoes.