Re-engineering mosquitos

Mosquito (Aedes aegypti) biting human

In a single year, there are 200-300 million cases of malaria and 50-100 million cases of dengue fever worldwide. So: Why haven’t we found a way to effectively kill mosquitos yet? Hadyn Parry presents a fascinating solution: genetically engineering male mosquitos to make them sterile, and releasing the insects into the wild, to cut down on disease-carrying species.

In this video, Biotech entrepreneur Hadyn Parry who leads a science start-up, talks about developing GM (genetically modified) insects to fight dengue fever.

Design Challenge
Re-engineering mosquitos to fight disease

Each question corresponds to a step in the Engineering Design Process.

  • What? (Ask questions, understand the need, identify the problem)
    Dengue fever is spread by mosquitos. Chemical spraying is expensive and causes other problems. Many other alternatives have been tried but don’t work very well. The problem is wide spread so the solution has to available in many parts of the world.
  • So What? (Imagine, brainstorm, explore)
    The mosquitos are the problem so eliminate or significantly reduce the number of mosquitos. The solution need to be low cost. It must be easy to use and not require electricity. It should not introduce new problems.
  • Now what? (Plan, design)
    Biotech engineering is relatively new. The work must be done in special laboratories. The modified mosquitos need to be transported to the infected areas.
  • Do It (Create, try it out)
    Make small batches of re-engineered mosquitos. Send them to an infected area to test the effectiveness or this solution.
  • If this then what? (Improve, make it better)
    There are disease-causing mosquitos in rural areas and in cities.

Engineering vocabulary, concepts
biotech engineering, genetic modification

Show and Tell
Now it is your turn. Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • Research dengue fever and describe some of the ways people have tried to prevent the spread of this disease
  • Give a presentation about bio-engineering, its history, and some of the work that is being done
  • Find out more about Genetic Modified Organisms (GMO) – the plants, animals and insects that have been genetically engineered

Learn more…