Aaron Maule of Queen's University Belfast in the United Kingdom will develop food crops expressing microRNAs that, upon ingestion by humans, can be used to target and kill parasitic worms and the mosquitos that transmit them. Plant microRNAs can survive the digestion process and are detected in human blood following consumption. Therefore, they may also be encountered by blood-borne parasitic worms and by the blood-eating insects that transmit them, which cause widespread disease. He will select candidate microRNAs and test their activity using rodent infection models. The most effective microRNAs will be tested for toxicity to human cells, and will be used to engineer transgenic plants to analyze efficacy upon ingestion in rodents.
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