Mosquitos are the deadliest animal on Earth. They spread diseases like yellow fever, chikungunya, West Nile virus and malaria. Malaria alone killed 435,000 people and infected another 219 million in 2017 according to the World Health Organization. There are widespread efforts to combat mosquito-borne illnesses, including revolutionary new gene editing techniques.
Ethan Bier and Valentino Gantz, biologists at UC San Diego, have been researching gene drives – systems that allow scientists to quickly push genes through entire populations. Typically, genetic information from each parent is combined and passed down to their children. Think back to Punnett squares from high school biology. If one parent has blonde hair and the other has brown hair, the brunette would have to carry a recessive blonde gene for any of their children to be blonde. But, gene drives change that. Gantz and Bier came up with a way to use the CRISPR gene-editing technique to insert self-editing genes into mosquitos, so preferred traits are always passed down. Their research shows these traits can take over entire populations within 10 generations, one to two years for mosquitos.
In a recent talk at UC San Diego Extension’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Bier dove into the details of exactly how gene drives work, and their many potential applications.
Watch — Engineering Mosquitos to Fight Malaria with Ethan Bier — Osher UC San Diego
Many people will consider factual information and it will change their understanding. But there are some for whom, “Providing more, accurate information doesn’t seem to change their opinions or make them alter their erroneous views,” says Eugenie Scott, Founding Executive Director of National Center for Science Education. For example, Americans have a much lower incidence of acceptance of evolution than people in any other developed country in the world. The same is true about the acceptance of anthropogenic climate change, despite the scientific evidence for both.
What explains this knowledge resistance?
We all view factual information through a filter of ideology, values, and group identification but these filters often make ideas very resistant to change because they prevent us from looking dispassionately at empirical evidence, facts and logic. Scott explores what drives knowledge resistance and what can break it down.
Eugenie C. Scott served as the executive director of the National Center for Science Education, an organization that works to keep publicly (though not scientifically) controversial topics like evolution and climate change in the public schools. Her work has involved a mixture of science, communication, religion, education, law, and community activism.
Watch Why Do People Reject Good Science?
Humans have been hunter-gatherers for most of our existence as a species and hunting has long been seen as a key human adaptation, thought to have influenced our anatomy, physiology, and behavior, indeed, a force in our evolution as a species. CARTA brings experts from across the globe to explore evidence pertaining to understanding the origins of hominin hunting and where this understanding can lead future research.
Browse more programs in CARTA: The Role of Hunting in Anthropogeny.
Join a group of science teachers and middle and high school students on a field trip to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) for the annual Science on Saturday (SOS) lecture series. Presented by leading LLNL researchers and supported by master high school science teachers, each topic highlights cutting-edge science occurring at the lab.
Check out this year’s field trips:
3D Printing: From Imagination to Realization
Revolutionary changes to materials and structures are now possible with 3D printing, bringing concepts that were previously only imagined into reality. This breakthrough technology fabricates components by adding material layer by layer from the bottom up allowing for the creation of highly complex and previously unrealizable structures.
Reconstructing a Rabies Epidemic: Byte by Byte
A vast majority of the newly discovered human pathogens are viruses that have jumped to humans from an animal host (“cross-species transmission”). Find out how biologists and computer scientists have collaborated and used cutting edge ultra-deep sequencing technology to study the dynamics of a 2009 rabies outbreak to better understand emergent viruses, such as Ebola and Zika.
Forensic Science in Crisis: How Proteins Can Help
In the last decade, the scientific foundations of a number of traditional forensic methods have come under increasing criticism by the scientific community, leading to their discontinuation or reduced effectiveness in criminal prosecutions. These challenges raise questions about the admissibility of certain type of evidence in current cases and the validity of previous convictions. We will discuss the basis of these issues and describe some of the work ongoing at LLNL to try and address some of them. In particular we will describe an entirely new science-based approach to human identification.
Browse Field Trip at the Lab: Science on Saturday to discover more from past field trips!