Research Digest

Lab notes: In the middle of an ethics debate, scientists create dengue-resistant mosquitos

A round up of the latest in medical research.

About 40% of the world’s population is exposed to the risk of dengue and a large number of those people live in India, which has several virulent outbreaks of the disease especially in its monsoon months. Scientists have been tinkering with mosquito genes to find ways to control mosquito-borne disease like malaria and dengue and may have now created a genetically modified mosquito that can resist infection by the dengue virus and therefore cease to spread it.

Dengue is spread through the Aedes aegyptii mosquitos. Mosquitos that feed on the blood of an infected person pass the disease on when they subsequently bite a healthy person. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have shown that the Aedes aegyptii’s natural ability to fight the dengue virus can be boosted to reject infection in the mosquito in the first place.

In research published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases they describe manipulating a component of the Aedes aegyptii immune system called the JAK-STAT pathway, that regulates production of antiviral factors. The genetic modification resulted in fewer mosquitoes becoming infected. Most of the mosquitos that did get infected had very low levels of dengue virus in their salivary glands. However, the genetic modification did not make the mosquitos resistant to two other diseases that their also are capbale of carrying – Zika and chikungunya.

The team also found that the dengue-resistant mosquitoes live as long as the wild mosquitoes but produce fewer eggs, making it likely that the same mechanism that triggers the immune system plays a role in egg production.

Genetic modification of mosquitos for disease elimination is based on the theorro of “gene drives” that involve replacing the natural population of mosquitos with GM mosquitos that cannot spread the disease. A laboratory at Jalna in Maharashtra has been performing similar genetic experiments for dengue control. However, some scientists and ethicists hold the view that there can be unintended and unforseeable consequences of such large scale manipulations, some that maybe dangerous or even devastating.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

When did we start parenting our parents?

As our parents grow older, our ‘adulting’ skills are tested like never before.

From answering every homework question to killing every monster under the bed, from soothing every wound with care to crushing anxiety by just the sound of their voice - parents understandably seemed like invincible, know-it-all superheroes all our childhood. It’s no wonder then that reality hits all of a sudden, the first time a parent falls and suffers a slip disc, or wears a thick pair of spectacles to read a restaurant menu - our parents are growing old, and older. It’s a slow process as our parents turn from superheroes to...human.

And just as slow to evolve are the dynamics of our relationship with them. Once upon a time, a peck on the cheek was a frequent ritual. As were handmade birthday cards every year from the artistically inclined, or declaring parents as ‘My Hero’ in school essays. Every parent-child duo could boast of an affectionate ritual - movie nights, cooking Sundays, reading favourite books together etc. The changed dynamic is indeed the most visible in the way we express our affection.

The affection is now expressed in more mature, more subtle ways - ways that mimics that of our own parents’ a lot. When did we start parenting our parents? Was it the first time we offered to foot the electricity bill, or drove them to the doctor, or dragged them along on a much-needed morning walk? Little did we know those innocent acts were but a start of a gradual role reversal.

In adulthood, children’s affection for their parents takes on a sense of responsibility. It includes everything from teaching them how to use smartphones effectively and contributing to family finances to tracking doctor’s appointments and ensuring medicine compliance. Worry and concern, though evidence of love, tend to largely replace old-fashioned patterns of affection between parents and children as the latter grow up.

It’s something that can be easily rectified, though. Start at the simplest - the old-fashioned peck on the cheek. When was the last time you gave your mom or dad a peck on the cheek like a spontaneous five-year-old - for no reason at all? Young parents can take their own children’s behaviour available as inspiration.

As young parents come to understand the responsibilities associated with caring for their parents, they also come to realise that they wouldn’t want their children to go through the same challenges. Creating a safe and secure environment for your family can help you strike a balance between the loving child in you and the caring, responsible adult that you are. A good life insurance plan can help families deal with unforeseen health crises by providing protection against financial loss. Having assurance of a measure of financial security for family can help ease financial tensions considerably, leaving you to focus on being a caring, affectionate child. Moreover,you can eliminate some of the worry for your children when they grow up – as the video below shows.

Play

To learn more about life insurance plans available for your family, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of SBI Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.