Now that summer’s here, have you noticed that the mosquitoes are out in full force? Did you know that mosquitoes cause more human suffering and disease than any other organism on the planet? Over 750,000 people a year die from mosquito-borne illnesses, and it’s not just humans that are affected! Mosquitoes spread dog heartworms, Eastern equine encephalitis, and many other diseases that affect our pets and local wildlife. But there might soon be a solution!
Researchers have figured out a way to genetically engineer mosquitoes that could dramatically reduce or eliminate some mosquito-borne illnesses. In these mosquitoes, when sperm is produced, the X chromosome that the male would normally pass on to its female young is destroyed, so 95% of the time they only have male offspring. Why does this matter? Well, male mosquitoes don’t bite- the females do. Females spread disease, and one female can lay up to 3,000 eggs over the course of her lifetime.
Hopefully, this type of pest control could eliminate many mosquito-borne illnesses. But could this type of gender control work in other species? Could this research have applications in the understanding and management of X-linked diseases? What do you think?
Recent research has found that the presence of male scents can stress out male mice. And this is pretty significant, as it’s important that research studies are able to be replicated. This will likely have an impact on behavioral studies going forward- and that’s a good thing!
It’s extremely important to minimize variables in research. Animals in research settings are often the best tools at a researcher’s disposal, due to this very reason. Unlike human subjects, research animals are able to be monitored extremely carefully in order to understand exactly which variables are significant. By understanding the effects of male scents on male mice, researchers have more information at their disposal as they attempt to minimize variables in their research studies.
By recognizing the fact that the gender of the researcher can have an impact on research outcomes, hopefully fewer animals will be needed to give statistically significant results. It’s also likely that researchers may now be able to understand why certain studies can be difficult to replicate. It’s commendable that researchers at McGill University in Montreal were able to provide this information to the research community. Read more about it here:
In the past, attempts at a male contraceptive pill were centered on altering hormones or affecting sperm production. Both of those methods could potentially cause negative long-term effects on fertility, as well as impact sexual performance.
But researchers in Australia have had great success with male birth control attempts in mice. There are two proteins that are responsible for transporting sperm during ejaculation, and by using genetically modified mice that have these proteins blocked, researchers found that the males were infertile but their sexual performance and sperm viability were normal! Translation: the sperm is there, it’s just not going anywhere.
The goal is to replicate this process chemically in an attempt to block these same proteins, with the goal of creating a daily oral contraceptive that would have completely reversible side effects. While in this study, mouse infertility was not reversible, the theory is that a contraceptive could be developed that would act on these proteins while in the patient’s system but then be fully reversible once the patient stopped taking it- similar to oral contraceptives for use in women. It’s possible that a safe, reversible oral contraceptive for men could be available within 10 years. Pretty cool!