Tricking the mosquito’s “nose”  pg. 6

It hasn’t taken mosquitoes long to develop resistance to many insecticides. That is because mutations in one or two genes are enough to make the chemicals ineffective.

The same would hold true for a repellant that acted on a single receptor. However, if the scientists can produce repellants containing a blend of compounds that stimulate a number of receptors, it is virtually impossible for the insects to develop resistance to them, Zwiebel says.

Although the Grand Challenge is focused on a practical outcome, Zwiebel expects it to yield new information about the molecular basis of behavior that could apply not only to insects but to other animals, including humans.

Researchers are now in a good position to understand peripheral elements of the olfactory system, such as how the mosquito senses the chemical environment at the extreme end of its nervous system, and how that chemical information—in mosquitoes and other insects—is translated into neuronal information.

“At the other end, we are also focused on the behavioral output,” he continues. “What can we do to change an attractive behavior into a repulsive behavior? Is it a concentration effect? Is it a level of stimulation of the neurons?” These are some of the basic questions that the researchers hope to answer in the course of the project.

“The fact that we can use these tools to understand fundamental neuroscience questions while, at the same time, making an important contribution to global health issues… It’s almost too good to be true,” Zwiebel says.

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