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Scientists Use Gene Editing To Create Mutant Cockroaches

Jayden Collins

| Last updated 

Scientists Use Gene Editing To Create Mutant Cockroaches

Scientists have been able to genetically modify the world's most hated insect to make mutant cockroaches.

No, they’re not some wacky researchers in a lab looking to create something that would look fit to be in Mimic or The Fly.

In fact, their mutant cockroach creations could actually be a great sign for pest control and gene editing itself in the future. 

The scientists edited the genes of the cockroaches using CRISPR-Cas9 or ‘direct parental’ technology that targets and changes parts of an organism’s DNA. 

Madagascar cockroach. Credit: Steve Hamblin / Alamy
Madagascar cockroach. Credit: Steve Hamblin / Alamy

The team from Kyoto University injected adult female cockroaches and found that the gene they had implemented had passed along to their offspring as well.

They ran several experiments, introducing genes for eye colour into the cockroach species. 

The team, led by Yu Shirai, published their findings in Cell Reports Methods and explained the significance of the new findings.

Previously, the majority of insects have been genetically modified by injecting the embryos of the insects, with wasps and mosquitos previous examples of such a process.

However, cockroaches and many other insects are a bit harder to inject.

In the case of cockroaches, they protect their embryos by surrounding them in a hard case for days or weeks before they hatch making it impossible to inject the eggs. 

With this latest study proving that mutations can be carried out through to the offspring, it makes future gene-editing techniques much easier and opens up opportunities for other species as well.

Shirai’s team said in the study: “With over a million species described, insects are a treasure trove of diversity and represent boundless possibilities as research tools for answering fundamental questions in biology.

Credit: prasong takham / Alamy
Credit: prasong takham / Alamy

“Current approaches for insect gene editing require microinjection of materials into early embryos, which is highly challenging in most species. 

“In this work, we established and optimized a simple and efficient method for insect gene editing by adult injection, which can be readily implemented in any laboratory and directly applied to a great diversity of non-model insect species.”

The results provide the potential to implement gene-editing techniques to benefit pest control while also providing a roadmap for future trials on other insects. 

Shirai’s team concluded that the new technique will extend the possibilities of gene-editing technology due to its simplicity and accessibility. 

Let’s just hope some scientist doesn’t accidentally mess up and we have an intrusion of five-foot long killer cockroaches roaming around.

Featured Image Credit: Bernard Bialorucki / Alamy. Back To The Future.

Topics: Animals, Science, Technology

Jayden Collins
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