SCIENTISTS say they have succeeded for the first time in wiping out an entire population of malaria-carrying mosquitoes in the lab using a gene editing tool to programme their extinction.
So-called gene drive technology works by forcing evolution’s hand, ensuring that an engineered trait is passed down to a higher proportion of offspring – across many generations – than would have occurred naturally.
In experiments with the species Anopheles gambiae, scientists at Imperial College London tweaked a gene known as doublesex so that more females in each generation could no longer bite or reproduce.
After only eight generations, there were no females left and the population collapsed due to lack of offspring.
“This breakthrough shows that gene drive can work, providing hope in the fight against a disease that has plagued mankind for centuries,” said lead author Andrea Crisanti, a professor in Imperial’s Department of Life Sciences.
Malaria sickened more than 200 million people worldwide in 2016 and killed nearly 450,000. It remains one of the most deadly of infectious diseases.
Previous attempts by the same team and others to induce the genetically programmed extinction of mosquitos in the laboratory ran into “resistance” in the form of mutations that fought back against the high-tech engineering.
The next step will be to test the technology in a confined laboratory setting that mimics a tropical environment, said Crisanti. “It will be at least five to 10 years before we consider testing any mosquitoes with gene drive in the wild,” he said in a statement.
The doublesex gene targeted in the experiments is deeply “conserved”, meaning that is formed tens or even hundreds of millions of years ago and is today shared by many insects with only minor variations.
“This suggests the technology could be used in the future to specifically target other disease-carrying insects,” the researchers said.
Scientists not involved in the study described it as a timely breakthrough. “Traditional approaches to controlling mosquitoes – especially the use of insecticides – is becoming less effective,” mainly due to the build-up of resistance, said Cameron Webb, a clinical lecturer at the University of Sydney.
2016 marked the first time in over two decades that malaria cases did not fall year-on-year, despite aggressive and well-funded anti-malarial campaigns.
Some scientists and technology watchdog groups have called for a moratorium on gene drive research. “The ability to eradicate species and natural populations at will with synthetic gene drive is not to be celebrated but should rather sound an alarm,” said Jim Thomson of the ETC Group, an NGO monitoring new technologies that often race ahead of regulatory frameworks.
“There are ecological risks from manipulating and removing natural populations, such as destroying food webs and shifting the behaviour of diseases, as well as social risks of disrupting agriculture and enabling new weapons.”
The issue will be squarely on the agenda in November in Egypt at a UN Biodiversity summit, which has mandated one of its technical committees to assess gene drive’s potential risks and benefits.
“Governments, farmers, indigenous peoples and civil society will be pressing for a full moratorium,” said Thomson.
The new research, published in Nature Biotechnology, was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has poured close to US$100mil (RM414mil) into the development of gene drive technology – especially via the research consortium Target Malaria – with the aim of eradicating the disease. The US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has also invested tens of millions of dollars.
“It is incumbent on DARPA to perform this research and develop technologies that can protect against accidental and intentional misuse,” DARPA spokesman Jared Adams told AFP last December. – AFP Relaxnews
NEW research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress 2018 has found that growing up near green spaces may be connected to a reduced number of respiratory problems as an adult.
Carried out by researchers at the Department of Occupational Medicine at Haukeland University Hospital, Norway, the new findings come from RHINESSA, a large international study that has been investigating lung health in children and adults in seven European countries.
The researchers gathered data from 5,415 participants aged between 18 and 52 years who were taking part in the RHINESSA study in Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and Estonia, and analysed their exposure to residential “greenness” during childhood.
Information on exposure to air pollution from birth to age 18, including two sizes of fine particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), was also gathered from 4,414 participants taking part in the study at the Swedish centres.
The team assessed how many of the participants suffered from more than three respiratory symptoms, such as chest wheezing or whistling, a tight chest on waking, or being woken by a cough, as well as how many suffered from a severe wheeze (in which the person experienced wheezing with breathlessness in the past year but did not have a cold), and late onset asthma, which starts after the age of 10 years.
The results showed that children who had access to green spaces close to their homes had fewer respiratory problems, such as asthma and wheezing, in adulthood, while those who were exposed to air pollution were more likely to experience respiratory problems as young adults.
For example, the findings from the Norway center showed that exposure to PM2.5 and NO2 increased the risk of late onset asthma by 6-22%, while exposure to PM10 increased the risk of developing respiratory symptoms by 23%.
In Estonia, exposure to greenness before the age of 10 was associated with a 71% reduction in the risk of developing a wheeze, and exposure to greenness between the ages of 11 and 18 was associated with a 39% lower risk of wheeze and a 29% lower risk of respiratory symptoms.
“These are preliminary results,” said researcher Dr Ingrid Nordeide Kuiper, “but we found that exposure to greenness during childhood was associated with fewer respiratory symptoms in adulthood, while exposure to air pollutants in childhood was associated with more respiratory symptoms in adulthood and with late onset asthma.”
“We need to analyse these findings further before drawing any definite conclusions. However, it is likely that our findings will substantially expand our knowledge on the long-term effects of air pollution and greenness, enabling physicians, scientists and policy-makers to see the importance of exposure to pollution and access to green spaces, and helping to improve public health,” said Dr Kuiper.
The European Respiratory Society International Congress 2018 started September 15 in Paris, France and ran through September 19. – AFP Relaxnews
No matter where you are travelling to, it is important to enjoy yourself. The luggage that you bring can set the mood – and should be an extension of your persona.
Tumi’s Autumn/Winter 2018 collections fit this exact need. They comprise a range of sleek and beautiful designs, which will surely match any style.
As explained by creative director Victor Sanz, Tumi sees travel as a standard in both business and life. He says the brand’s products merge functionality and aesthetic.
“We challenge ourselves to add to the features that make the journey even more pleasurable. One of the key elements that we continue to push ourselves on is creating designs that are season-less,” he states.
“The most important part of it is to truly understand the user and their needs, as well as have the foresight to develop products that meet their continuously evolving travels.”
Victor Sanz sees travel as a standard in both business and life.
Sanz points out that he is really excited about the latest women’s collections from Tumi, Georgica and Mezzanine, which feature fashion-forward and style-driven designs.
“The new colourways and patterns in the 19 Degree Aluminum collection too. I’m also really into our new travel collection, Merge, which features enhanced functionality and is geared towards adventure and the getaway,” he adds.
Tumi’s inspiration for Autumn/Winter 2018 comes from Scandinavia. In this, it is focusing on and delving deeper into the relationship between the technical and the handcrafted.
With a new take on camouflage, classic florals modernised with shifting contrasts and reflective pops, and subtle texture play, the season presents new dimensions added to classic fabrics and styles.
“Our team is always inspired by new destinations, some physical and some theoretical. We’re inspired by more than just the place, but what it represents and the different layers it has within its culture – from music to art, architecture and food.”
Tumi’s customers are equally as diverse. According to Sanz, they include the everyday traveller or commuter, as well as CEOs, artists and DJs, who have their own unique needs.
“We strive to offer products that meet their needs – from exceptionally lightweight cases such as Latitude, to collections such as 19 Degree, which are functionally and aesthetically superior, to Merge, geared towards adventure and the getaway.”
The Tumi Scandinavian Lodge was recently unveiled in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, when it offered a taste of the season’s inspiration.
Part showroom, part discovery experience, it welcomed visitors to explore the latest collections.
Setting a stage for the women’s collection, the installation brought to life the best elements of Scandinavian home decor. The men’s collection was highlighted in a cabin, a stylish oasis of masculine calm of sorts.
The Tumi Scandinavian Lodge in Pavilion KL brought to life the season’s inspiration.
Hello lovely ladies, I am still on the roll with Sonia G eye brushes – this one is Sonia G Builder One Brush. It was part of the original collection she launched on Beautylish.
Hello ladies, The moment I first came to know about Melt Cosmetics and had a look at their products, I was lemming for “Rust Stack.” Unfortunately for me, it was constantly sold out. In the interim, I ended up buying the 4-pan Dark Matter and Love Sick stacks, which I have already reviewed for you. Finally, I got my hands on the “Rust” stack and it got lost in transit. Needless to say, by this time the feeling of FOMO w