Can CRISPR replace conventional methods of biological conservation?

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. 

Scientists have recognized the potential for applying gene drive technologies to the control of invasive species for several years, yet debate about the application of gene drive has been primarily restricted to mosquitoes. Recent developments in clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 technology have restarted discussions of using gene drive for invasive species control.

The implications are potentially remarkable: for the first time we may genuinely have a tool with the power to permanently eliminate a target species from the planet. The question is no longer whether we can control invasive species using gene drive, but whether we should. Here we explore the implications of recent developments in CRISPR-Cas9 gene drive technology from a biosecurity perspective, through broad comparison with classical biological control (CBC).

To date, CBC has been the only cost-effective management option for controlling widespread and abundant introduced organisms. Sterile insect technology has also proven to be an effective control option for some target species, but without gene drive sterile insect technology is not self-propagating and for most targets is cost-prohibitive. We contend that the implementation of a gene drive control strategy against invasive alien species would be highly analogous to a CBC program. As such, practitioners of CRISPR-Cas9 gene drive should consider the lessons learned from decades of carefully regulated CBC research if we are to apply this technology to biosecurity challenges. We focus on three relevant priorities: (i) the importance of understanding target specificity, (ii) the implications of population connectivity, and (iii) the need to carefully consider unintended cascades for community dynamics.

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Read full, original post: Is CRISPR-based gene drive a biocontrol bullet or global conservation threat?

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