Mosquito-B-Gone: How gene editing can change the world

Yasina Somani
January 09, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The mosquito is considered the deadliest animal in the world. Mosquito-borne diseases including malaria, the zika virus, dengue and many others threaten a significant portion of the population and are a source of tremendous economic burden worldwide. With a recent development in a gene-editing technology, called CRISPR, the potential to eliminate these vector-borne diseases has become a reality.

But the scope of this technology reaches beyond helping to eradicate these diseases. Researchers may use it to do everything from answering basic science questions, to improving health in humans and animals through gene therapy. But before embarking on these pursuits, what questions should we ask ourselves about the ethics of exploring into this uncharted territory? And what would a bioethical framework for gene editing look like?

At this month’s Science on Tap event Penn State researchers Jason Rasgon and Jonathan Marks will discuss gene editing and its applications, as well as the ethics surrounding it.

Rasgon is a professor of entomology and disease epidemiology at Penn State. His interests lie in addressing fundamental and applied questions related to arthropods and the pathogens they transmit. His lab recently developed a new method to perform gene editing in arthropods.

Marks is the director of the Bioethics Program at Penn State and an affiliate faculty with Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs. Marks lectures widely on law, ethics and policy. He has also served as an expert on ethics and law at meetings of the WHO, the National Academies and the Royal Society, among others.

“Ethics can and should address the use of terminology as well as technology," said Marks.

The Science on Tap event will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, at Federal Tap House in downtown State College.

The event is part of the monthly Science on Tap series, which is designed to allow informal discussions between leading Penn State researchers and members of the public. Attendees are reminded that they must be 21 years of age, or older, to attend.

Yasina Somani, a doctoral candidate at Penn State and an organizer for Science on Tap, thinks it will be an informative event.

“Given recent headlines about gene-edited babies, the topic of this month’s Science on Tap event is highly relevant and should spark great discussion,” she said.

Science on Tap is presented by the Science Policy Society, a graduate student-run organization that aims to teach researchers about the connection between their research and public policy.

For more information, visit the society’s website.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 09, 2019