Playing God? Wasps with red eyes created in lab by mad scientists

Red-eyed, mutant jewel wasps have emerged from a family of black-eyed wasps. Rather than a creation of nature, this new strain was conceived by a team of researchers at the University of California (UC) Riverside. Led by Professor Omar Akbari, the researchers from the Akbari Lab brought the bizarre creature into the world in an effort to better understand insect genetics for higher purposes.

The researchers chose the jewel wasp for this endeavor because of the “selfish genetic elements” present in some male wasps. These components “can somehow kill the female embryos and create only males,” said Akbari in a statement in Science Daily. “To understand that, we need to pursue their PSR (paternal sex ratio) chromosomes, perhaps by mutating regions of the PSR chromosome to determine which genes are essential for its functionality.”

To accomplish this, the team turned to clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) gene-splicing technology. This new technology would allow the team to inject components such as proteins and RNA into an organism. The components would then locate and alter a specific piece of DNA, in the case of the wasp, the eye pigmentation.

According to Akbari, the study was “pretty daunting” because jewel wasp eggs are about a quarter the size of a grain of rice. Adding to the difficulty was the fact that jewel wasps lay their eggs inside blowfly pupae. “You’re essentially pulling a small egg out of a larger egg, injecting it with components to mutate the DNA and then putting it back into the bigger egg to develop,” Akbari stated.

Of how they managed to inject the components into wasp eggs, Akbari has said: “You have to use a very-very fine needle and a microscope and individually inject hundred to thousands of embryos, but in the end, we developed a protocol that can be used to cut the DNA in this organism and we showed that it works.” Although challenging, Akbari has noted that the technique “is learnable. You need a really steady hand and it requires a lot of patience in micro manipulation that one can learn over time.”

With the success of their experiment, the researchers hope that their discovery can contribute to controlling insects that spread diseases or destroy crops. As for the current batch of red-eyed, mutant jewel wasps, they will not be disappearing anytime soon. The red eyes are a heritable trait, meaning their future offspring and generations to come will carry the terrifying, unique look.

Genetically modified wasps, sheep, pigs and more

Far from being man’s first attempts at creation, the red-eyed mutant jewel wasps are just the latest project from mad scientists.

Perhaps the most famous genetically modified animal is “Dolly” the sheep, the world’s first cloned sheep who came into being in 1996 before dying of lung disease a mere six years later. In 2010, an American biotech company spliced together the genes of different fish in order to create a breed of salmon that grew to full size at twice the rate of other salmon. In 2015, South Korean scientists tweaked the genes in pigs to produce more muscular specimens. On the other end of the spectrum, Chinese scientists used genome editing to create “micropigs” that they intend to sell commercially. Even more unusual is the breed of goats that have been genetically engineered by Wyoming scientists to produce a spider silk protein in their milk.

You can read up on more news about genetically modified organisms by visiting

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