A team of researchers from several state-of-the-art teaching hospitals has partnered to create a 3D genome of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is responsible for transmission of the Zika virus. Researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT, Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard, Texas Children’s Hospital and Rice University were able to create the mosquito’s genome from scratch, at a faster, cheaper rate than ever before.
The genome of Aedes aegypti mosquito will provide researchers with new insights and rich resource for study. By studying the genome of these mosquitos, researchers anticipate finding a cure for the Zika virus.
Zika is an infectious disease that primarily spreads through the bite of the Aedes mosquito, causing microcephaly in unborn children. The mosquito becomes infected when it feeds on a blood meal from an infected human host. They are known for being more aggressive daytime biters, but they will also bite at night. Aedes aegypti mosquitos are also responsible for transmitting, yellow fever, chikungunya virus and gangue.
A genome is a full set of genetic material or genes, which contains genetic instructions that determines how a living organism inherits phenotypic traits and thrives. Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA) is made up of chemical building blocks known as nucleotides that contain a sugar group, phosphate group and a nitrogen base. There are four types of nitrogen base, including thymine, adenine, cytosine and guanine. The basis of genome sequencing and the genetic code of an organism are determined by the order of these bases.
Researchers that took part in the Human Genome Project, a $2.7 billion project, in April 2003 were successful in assembling the first sequenced human genome. This project paved the way for genome-based research and preventive medicine. Human genomes vary from person to person, so utilizing the reference genome in identifying another’s anomalous genome may be compromised.
To avoid these risks, the research team developed 3D genome assembly, a new procedure that establishes the genome sequence based on how chromosomes fold within the nucleus. The 3D assembly technique expenses totaled up to an estimated $3,000, compared to the average cost of an MRI.
The 1.2 billion letter genome of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, assembled by the research team, will be utilized to determine any vulnerabilities in the transmitter’s genome that could potentially lead the discovery of a way to eradicate or halt the transmission of Zika.