Scientists Create Mutant Red-Eyed Wasps In Lab

Scientists have created a hellish mutant wasp with bright red eyes in their lab. Typical scientists, eh?

While it looks like the work of mad scientists under the control of an evil genius, this little experiment serves as further proof that scientists are getting to grips with CRISPR, one of the most powerful breakthroughs in gene-editing.

As explained in their study, recently published in Nature’sScientific Reports, the ruby-eyed parasitic jewel wasps ( Nasonia vitripennis ) were created by the University of California Riversides Akabari lab use CRISPR-Cas9 gene-snipping technology. This technique allows scientists to essentially cut and paste proteins in and out of DNA with far greater accuracy and speed than before. The technique is still relatively new, but it holds the health risks to be truly revolutionary.

Testing out the technology on this species is a pretty big deal as it was one of thefirst gene disruption-based techniques conducted in a hymenopteran insect, the third-largest order of insects including wasps, bees, and ants. Its also important because jewel wasps are increasingly being used to studyevolution, as they are rapid and easy to breed. They are also small, being merely the size of a small bean and with eggs a quarter of the size of a rice grain.

“You have to use a very-very fine needle and a microscope and separately inject hundred to thousands of embryo, “lead author Omar Akbari, an assistant professor of entomology, said in astatement.”You require a really steady hand and it requires a lot of patience in micro manipulation that one can learn over time. Ming Li, a postdoctoral researcher in our lab has mastered the technique.”

In this experimentation, they decided to slice out the genes that control the color of the wasp’s commonly black eyes.

We wanted to target a gene that would be obvious, and we knew from previous surveys that if the gene for eye pigmentation was knocked out, they would have red eyes, so this seemed like a good target for gene interruption, “Akbari added.”Big beautiful red eyes are something you won’t miss.”

Since the cuts in the DNA generated a mutant wasp with heritable traits, it also means that these red eyes will be passed down to all their progeny. Just, for the love of divinity, don’t let them out of the lab.

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