Friday, February 25, 2011

A GM Hypodermic Syringe

Each year there are about 225 million cases of malaria which kill around 780,000 people. A majority of them are children in sub Saharan Africa. The distribution of mosquito nets and other proactive measures have made progress, but now scientists have come up with a new approach to try to control the disease.

Instead of killing the mosquito that transmits the malaria parasite, the researchers have found a way to let the mosquito live, while killing the parasite inside it.

The trick was to engineer a fungus so that it "produces a protein which is anti-malarial, anti the parasite itself."

..."The fungus acts like a little hypodermic syringe, and when it's in the blood of the insect, the fungus then produces the anti-malarial protein, and within a couple of days it basically cures the mosquito of malaria." These findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Science.

"One of the great things about this paper is it does raise the scientific interest a lot in the fungi as injection systems into the mosquito." Certainly many hurdles remain before this treatment can be tested outside the lab but it's an approach that carries considerable promise.

The whole field of genetic modification has created many exciting challenges and possibilities which hopefully go beyond the gloom of an over engineered brave new world?