Japanese scientists have created the first GM cockroaches using CRISPR technology

(ORDO NEWS) — For the first time, biologists have been able to use the CRISPR gene modification method for insects. Trying a new approach, they created new lines of GM beetles and cockroaches.

CRISPR-Cas9 technology ( or simply CRISPR) appeared only about ten years ago, but has already managed to make a small revolution in genetic engineering and brought its creators the Nobel Prize.

CRISPR allows the manipulation of genes with precision, reliability and simplicity not previously possible, becoming the most popular tool in this field.

It is enough to inject a cocktail of proteins and nucleic acids into the cells of an embryo that has begun to develop in order to obtain a GM organism with new desired properties.

The technology has found the widest application, however, it turned out that it is not suitable for all types. In particular, the early embryos of many insects develop under a hard shell and are not available for microinjection.

Therefore, in such cases, scientists still have to rely on older, more complex and unreliable methods. Only recently, employees at the Japanese University of Kyoto found an approach that allows using CRISPR for such animals. They write about this in an article published in the journal Cell Reports Methods .

Yu Shirai and colleagues injected the CRISPR cocktail not into embryos, but directly into the body cavity of adult fertile females.

As a result of such manipulation, the system also penetrates into the eggs of animals, introducing changes into their genomes that are inherited by developing offspring. The authors called the new approach DIPA-CRISPR (Direct Parental CRISPR) – “direct parental CRISPR”.

Japanese scientists have created the first GM cockroaches using CRISPR technology 2
General scheme of experiments with DIPA-CRISPR

To demonstrate the method in action, the scientists used CRISPR to “turn off” one of the genes in the embryos of red cockroaches ( Blattella germanica ) that determines their eye color.

The experiments showed that almost 22 percent of the offspring of such females carried the artificial mutation – a rather impressive figure for GM manipulations.

Tribolium castaneum beetles have been even more successful in testing the new approach : changes have been preserved in half of their offspring. Slightly less effective were attempts at a more complex modification of DNA – the introduction of a new gene into it.

“The successful application of DIPA-CRISPR to two evolutionarily distant insect species indicates its versatility,” the scientists write in the paper.

“The simplicity and accessibility of DIPA-CRISPR will dramatically expand the possibilities of using gene technologies for a wide range of model and non-model insects, including pests and species of epidemiological significance, whose genome has not yet been manipulated.”

The authors of the study estimate that the technology will allow working with more than 90 percent of insect species.


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