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Birth control for cockroaches
By Birgit Hofmann

Wild cockroach (Panchlora nivea) in Florida.

Cockroaches, those primitive winged insects that are commonly considered troublesome household pests, have interesting reproductive genes that entomologists at Cornell University hope to use as the source of a new method of birth control—especially for the brown-banded and the German cockroaches.

According to research findings presented recently at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Francisco, the scientists have discovered that the German cockroach has a gene named CYP6L1 that they think is involved in the reproductive process of the male cockroach.

In a statement for the press, Jeffrey G. Scott, a professor of entomology in Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences said, "We still don't know what hormone this gene is regulating, but this is enough of a clue to get us started. We're pretty sure the hormone is essential for reproduction. If we can knock out the CYP6L1 protein, we can make the pest struggle to reproduce."

Once the scientists have identified the relevant hormone, they plan to develop chemical inhibitors of that protein and include it in roach bait. One advantage of this gene-based pest control method will be that it will only afflict specific pests without affecting other insects or humans.

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Cockroach birth control from gene discovery. Cornell University News. (March 28, 2000).

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