How do you control insect pests without damaging biodiversity?
The Robin Lab
dsRNA interference for pest insect control
Eukaryotes have a cellular machinery that recognizes double stranded RNA (dsRNA) and processes it into 'small interfering RNA's' (siRNA). These small interfering RNA's can prevent the expression of genes that have sequence similarity to the small RNA's. This system has been exploited by researchers to 'knockdown' gene expression. The success of these strategies in model organisms has led to plans to use dsRNA as species-specific insecticides. Such insecticides could be delivered as naked dsRNA, in some kind of particles, in modified microorganisms, or - most specifically, through transgenic plants. In theory, any insect that eats such transgenic plant would be considered a pest, but only insects that have sequence similarity would be targetted by the transgenic RNA.The specificity means that such technology has the potential to be much more environmentally friendly than chemical insecticides.