Modified Mosquitoes

Huge numbers of genetically modified mosquitoes are to be breed by scientists in Brazil to help stop the spread of dengue fever, an illness that has already struck nearly 500,000 people this year nationwide.

Dengue effects between 50 and 100 million people in the tropics and subtropics each year, causing fever, muscle and joint ache as well as potentially fatal dengue haemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome.

The disease is caused by four strains of virus that are spread by the mosquito Aedes aegypti. There is no vaccine, which is why scientists are focusing so intensely on mosquito control.

The initiative in Brazil will produce large quantities of genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which will be released into nature to mate with females, the health ministry said.

“Their offspring will not reach adulthood, which should reduce the population,” it said in a statement.

The new mosquitoes will be produced in a factory inaugurated on Saturday in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia. Four million insects will be churned out per week.

The experiment has already been attempted in two mosquito-infested towns in Bahia, each with about 3,000 inhabitants.

“Using this technique, we reduced the mosquito population by 90 per cent in six months,” the ministry said.

Attribution: UK Telegraph

What’s a Dentist to Do?

A new chemical could make human teeth ‘cavity proof’ – and do away with the need for visits to the dentists forever.

The molecule has been called ‘Keep 32’ – after the 32 teeth in a human mouth.

The chemical was designed by dentists in Chile, and wipes out all the bacteria that cause cavities in just 60 seconds in tests.

The chemical could be added to any current dental care product, turning toothpaste, mouthwash and chewing gum into ‘super cleansers’ that could get rid of the underlying cause of tooth decay.

The chemical targets ‘streptococcus mutans’, the bacteria that turns the sugar in your mouth into lactic acid which erodes tooth enamel.

By exterminating the bacteria, ‘Keep 32’ prevents the damage to teeth before it happens.

Using a product containing the chemical keeps your teeth ‘cavity proof’ for several hours.

The product has been under test for seven years, and is now going into human trials.

It could be on the market in 14 to 18 months, say researchers José Córdoba from Yale University and Erich Astudillo from the University of Chile.

The chemical could even be added to foods to stop bacteria damaging teeth as you eat.

The researchers hope to licence the patent to chemical giants such as Procter and Gamble.

‘We are currently in talks with five interested in investing in our project or buy our patent,’ say the researchers.

Attribution: Mail Online

Cancer Gets Creamed

WHEN a disease runs skin deep, perhaps all that is needed is moisturizer supercharged with gene-regulation technology.

For skin conditions including melanoma, treatments that are applied directly to the skin are the ideal drug solution: they are easy to use and they affect only the area under which they are applied.

The problem is that our skin is such a successful barrier against toxins that finding substances that penetrate it is a huge challenge, says Amy Paller at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. So until now, clinics have used lasers or ultrasound to help deliver drugs deep into the skin.

Paller and her colleague Chad Mirkin, also at Northwestern, have found a way through the skin barrier. They coated tiny gold spheres with small interfering RNA (siRNA) – tiny pieces of nucleic acid that appear to penetrate the barrier and enter skin cells through an as-yet unspecified pathway. The siRNA is selected to target one of the genes responsible for making cancer cells grow quickly, called epidermal growth factor receptor.

Paller and Mirkin mixed the drug with store-bought moisturizer and applied it to mouse skin. Not only did the nanoparticles penetrate the skin, but they also targeted the intended gene without causing toxicity or other side effects in the surrounding skin.

Attribution: New Scientist