These are times when fantasy turns into reality. Or so I thought on reading about genetically modified mosquitoes—a breakthrough that lends hope of malaria eradication. Genetic research may be well on its way to untangle several knots and help us explore the biological and anthropological aspects of individuals and populations. But what has created a flutter in my mosquito-blessed neighbourhood is the latest breakthrough achieved by researchers in the UK in the area of genetically-modified mosquitoes.
The good news is that the scientists at Imperial College, London, have successfully tested a new genetic method that distorts the sex ratio of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, the female mosquitoes that are the main culprits in the transmission of the malarial parasite. By creating a fully fertile mosquito strain inside the laboratory that produced 95 per cent male offspring, scientists hope to bring about a crash in the population of the female mosquitoes that generously pass on malaria to humans.
This pioneering work of scientists in distant lands is music to our ears that are, by default, tuned to the buzz of hordes of mosquitoes that invade our homes even during hot afternoons. Even the vaguest of prospects of replicating this successful manipulation of the sex ratio on the mosquito population in our neighbourhood is reason enough for us to cry “Eureka”.
Advancements in biotechnology have proved that such deliberate manipulation of genetic material in a living organism is now a possibility. Interestingly, all of us believe we have descended with well-etched genetic blueprints that make us what we are. We blame our crazy genes for everything—right from our complexion to our cranky moods and languid ways.
There are genes that make one coy and shy, genes that pamper your lazy bones and tickle your funny bones, genes that raise your spirits to keep you floating in the cloud of happiness, genes that make you come tumbling, like Jack and Jill, down the hill of depression.
But the study of heredity has today empowered individuals to overcome their genetic predispositions to a certain extent. Genetic scientists have crossed milestones to muster evidence to bust the theory that “Genes are our destiny”.
Genetic science is now employed in the service of beauty and cosmetics, too. Anti-ageing therapies based on one’s DNA come at competitive rates that any individual, past his 20s, will find it hard to resist. After all, who wouldn’t want to set the clock back and relive one’s youth by making his or her lacklustre complexion and sagging skin mere short-lived dismays of the past?
Genes are no more our destiny. I may endorse this theory in the fond hope of a mosquito-free environment.
Nonetheless, it’s time we punctured our punch bags to eject the genetic excuses. We can’t sell our inheritance story anymore!