The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes Zachary Adelman, an associate professor of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, for his work taking the sting out of one of the most problematic animals in the world.
Adelman’s research focuses on viruses and mosquitoes. He seeks to understand, at the molecular and genetic level, how these viruses infect, replicate, and are transmitted by mosquitoes to humans.
More than a million people die from mosquito-borne diseases every year, with hundreds of millions more becoming ill.
Adelman seeks to understand the mosquito’s immune response to viruses. Unlike people, mosquitoes do not become ill when infected. By understanding genetic changes in the mosquito and in the virus, as well as the effects of different environmental situations, researchers may be able to find ways to prevent mosquito-borne viral outbreaks, Adelman says.
Adelman and colleagues recently improved a way to study genes in mosquitoes using a genome-editing method known as CRISPR-Cas9, which took the life-science scene by storm in 2012.
Editing the genome of an organism allows scientists to study it by deleting certain genes to observe how the organism is affected, or even to add new genes. The new technique makes the editing process more efficient and may accelerate efforts to develop novel mosquito-control or disease-prevention strategies.
Adelman and colleagues hope to design and implement new methods of controlling or preventing mosquito-borne viral disease outbreaks. This includes using genetics to block the mosquito’s ability to transmit viruses, such as genetically increasing the number of males that hatch in proportion to females, because females are responsible for disease transmission.
He also works to raise awareness among the public and elected representatives of the potential benefits and limitations of genetically modified organisms to control disease.
Adelman received his doctoral degree from Colorado State University and his bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College.