UCF creates artificial animal tissue for mosquito research

ORLANDO, Florida. We are fighting them as best we can.

From hand spray to large implements on the ground and in the air, it’s a constant battle against mosquito populations. Now researchers at the UCF College of Medicine are taking a different approach to rescue research on the world’s deadliest animal.

Researchers have developed an artificial animal tissue called capillary gel or cap gel. It looks like a small block of red jelly. Cap-gel mimics skin, but is actually a bundle of tubes with human or animal cells filled with animal blood. The mosquitoes don’t know it’s not the real deal.

“The idea is that we have created this new human tissue engineering platform that mosquitoes can bite and naturally feed on blood,” said Dr. Bradley Jay Willenberg, Ph.D., assistant professor at UCF College of Medicine, who created the gel cap.

Researchers begin to grow cap gel in a petri dish. It is shaped like a hockey puck that is cut into strips. From the strips, it is further cut into small blocks, and from there it is processed into the final product.

When the researchers add drops of blood to the block of gel, it is quickly absorbed into the body, behaving like blood in vessels under the skin. Willenberg said that this is a better way than using living people or animals for research. “The ultimate goal is to use this platform as a new tool to provide us with information about the biology of the bite site, what happens when you get bitten by a mosquito, and all the related issues.”

The study could help experts find new ways to fight mosquitoes. It may even help control mosquito populations. It could also help in studying how mosquito bites transmit deadly diseases such as West Nile virus, dengue fever, Zika virus and malaria. This study is critical because, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these types of vector-borne diseases cause more than 700,000 deaths a year.

“So whatever we can do to reduce suffering, reduce this burden in countries around the world, will be our goal,” said Corey Seavey, a researcher at the UCF College of Medicine who helped Dr. Willenberg on this project.

Their next steps included partnering with other institutions and companies in cap gel research and developing new methods of using it to combat these errors.

In the meantime, we all know to drain standing water and avoid walking outdoors at dawn and dusk, but here are some unconventional ways to keep yourself safe: plant mosquito repellent plants like citronella plants, change the lighting – white light attracts mosquitoes , so opt for yellow lights and tuck in your clothes instead. Protect your body by tucking your shirt into your pants and then tucking your pants into your socks.

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