Genoa – A pool of American scientists has succeeded for the first time in demonstrating the possibility of genetically modifying a mint, providing a significant breakthrough in the fight against the dreaded Lyme disease.
Until now, gene editing in ticks was believed to be impossible, and with good reason. In fact, tick embryos are very difficult to reach with injections, because the egg that contains them is protected by a very hard layer on the outside with high levels of pressure inside and is, moreover, covered by a waxy layer that mothers create using what is called “organ of the Gené“.
“Despite their ability to acquire and transmit a range of debilitating pathogens, tick research has lagged behind other arthropod vectors, such as mosquitoes, due to the difficulty in analyzing the available genetic and molecular tools,” he said. Monika Gulia-Nuss, senior co-author of the study and molecular biologist from the University of Nevada, Reno. “Previously, no lab had shown that genome editing is possible in ticks,” Nuss added. “Some considered it technically too difficult to do. This is the first study to show that genetic transformation in ticks is possible with not just one, but two different methods.”
After demonstrating this protocol, scientists can now begin editing the tick’s genome in an attempt to prevent the transmission of Lyme disease, which infects about 300,000 people in the United States alone each year, along with over 20 other diseases transmitted by small arachnids. The experiments will involve altering genes in hopes of finding changes that can affect the development of pathogens and ultimately make ticks harmless to humans.
“Having genome editing tools at our disposal will allow us to unlock some of the secrets of the tick genome and will allow us to determine how these animals survive in the environment, how they interact with pathogens and how we could prevent them. ticks to spread disease to humans and livestock, “Gulia-Nuss said.
The research has been published in iScience magazine.
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