OXFORD, England, April 16, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
Oxitec today announced the development of strains of the silkworm, Bombyx mori, which allow production of exclusively male populations and could greatly enhance the efficiency of silk farming.
Writing in the international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/04/03/1221700110 abstract), Oxitec scientists report that the new strains will allow easy separation of male from female moths, which has long been a goal for silk farmers. Males require less feed and produce better quality silk than females, but until now, separating males has remained impractical.
Working in collaboration with researchers at the Shanghai Institute of Plant Pathology and Ecology in China, Oxitec's novel solution was to create strains of the moth in which females perish unless supplied with an antidote. Now, farmers can ensure a male-only crop of silk worms to facilitate a much more efficient production process and higher quality silk.
Commenting on the paper, Oxitec Chief Scientific Officer, Luke Alphey, said:
"A means of generating male-only silkworm populations is something that people have been looking at for a very long time, so this represents an important advance for silk farmers."
The report is the first instance of a genetically-engineered sexing mechanism being developed in the silkworm, and the system could also have potential for genetic control of related pest insects, Dr Alphey added.
"Until now, sex separation methods for silkworm have been time- and labour-intensive, and not practical for mass-rearing purposes. But by applying Oxitec's novel genetic technology, which has already proved itself in other insects, we will be able to solve that dilemma."
About Oxitec Ltd.
Oxitec is a pioneer in controlling insects that spread disease and damage crops. Its products build upon the use of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), an effective, species-specific and environmentally-friendly method of controlling harmful and damaging insects. Oxitec's first products are for the control of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species primarily responsible for transmitting dengue fever, and Mediterranean fruit fly, one of the world's most damaging agricultural pests.
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SOURCE Oxitec Ltd.