Scientists Use CRISPR to Create Red-Eyed Mutant Wasps

Posted on April 25, 2017

Mutant wasp with red eyes created using CRISPR

Scientists at UC Riverside's Akbari lab created a new strain of wasps with red eyes. The mutant wasps were created using CRISPR gene-slicing technology. They wanted to prove that the technology can be used on tiny parasitic jewel wasps. The modified wasp is pictured on the right in the above image.

Omar Akbari, an assistant professor of entomology who led the research team, says in a statement, "We wanted to target a gene that would be obvious, and we knew from previous studies that if the gene for eye pigmentation was knocked out, they would have red eyes, so this seemed like a good target for gene disruption. Big beautiful red eyes are something you won't miss."

The mutant wasps pass their new red-eye genes to their offspring. They are heritable traits. The scientists sliced the genes that control the color of the wasp's eyes and changed them from black to red.

CRISPR technology enables scientists to inject components like RNA and proteins into an organism with instructions to find, cut and mutate a specific piece of DNA. Using the technology on something as small as a jewel wasp is difficult. It had never before been used on an organism so small. Jewel wasps lay their eggs inside a blowfly pupa. The researchers had to peel back the pupa to expose the tiny eggs. The eggs themselves are only about a quarter the size of a grain of rice.

The scientists published a research paper on the mutant wasps in Scientific Reports.

Image: Akbari Lab

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