Year of selection 2011
Institution Institut Pasteur
Why exactly would anyone want to keep insects healthy? Malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, sleeping sickness: these are but a few examples of diseases transmitted by insects. Yet Dr. Juan Alberto Mondotte could hold the key to making insects more resistant to the viruses they infect thousands with. After deciphering several crucial mechanisms of the relationship between viruses and their hosts during his PhD in Argentina, he came to France to investigate the immune system of insects. Potent and rapid, their immune system works very differently from that of vertebrates. Remarkably, insects use RNAi, a RNA based mechanism capable of preventing the expression of foreign genes. Genes that are not expressed cannot build new proteins, and viruses that cannot use their host cells to make their own proteins cannot multiply. Understanding the dynamics of insect immunity may open a whole new range of perspectives for controlling both diseases and pests in agriculture.
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