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Researchers have rendered a population of mosquitoes in a lab sterile using the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 by homing in on a specific target in insect DNA -- the doublesex gene -- raising the possibility of eradicating disease-carrying species of the insect entirely, according to a new studypublished Monday in Nature Biotechnology.

In the study, scientists at Imperial College London used the technology to wipe out a population of caged mosquitoes that are able to transmit malaria, targeting a genetic sequence that leads to male and female traits. After a number of generations, they found that 100% of these mosquitoes were affected.

"The difference in the gene content between male and female is very, very minimal" in mosquitoes and humans alike, said study author Andrea Crisanti, professor of molecular parasitology and microbiology at Imperial College London.

Doublesex, as the name implies, controls how mosquitoes differentiate into male and female. Females with two copies of the mutated gene didn't develop properly and couldn't reproduce, while males developed normally and continued spreading the mutation. Mutant females also failed to develop the... see more