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Sperm Warfare
21 March 2012

Sperm Warfare

The reproductive organs of a male mosquito may be the size of a pinhead, but the sperm they contain (testes shown in green) present a prime target in a new genetic war against malaria. Wiping out malaria-laden mosquitoes is a sure fire way to reduce spread of a disease that kills up to a million people each year. Chemical warfare isn’t working – mosquitoes outmanoeuvre insecticides. But now, armed with the mosquito’s genetic code, scientists are developing birth-control measures – altering genes and rendering the pests sterile. The strategy is feasible because unique properties of seminal fluids (represented in yellow) that are transferred along with sperm mean the female only mates once in a lifetime. Consequently, a host of females copulating with a single sterile male would put paid to an army of mosquitoes. Researchers hope introducing sterile mosquitoes into the wild will, in future, add force to the battle against malaria.

Written by Caroline Cross

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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