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Biologists in the United States and Europe are developing a revolutionary genetic technique that promises to provide an unprecedented degree of control over insect-borne diseases and crop pests.
The technique involves a mechanism called a gene drive system, which propels a gene of choice throughout a population. No gene drives have yet been tested in the wild, but in laboratory organisms like the fruit fly, they have converted almost the entire population to carry the favored version of a gene.
Gene drives “could potentially prevent the spread of disease, support agriculture by reversing pesticide and herbicide resistance in insects and weeds, and control damaging invasive species,” a group of Harvard biologists wrote in the journal eLIFE.
A gene drive designed to render a population extinct is known as a crash drive. A crash drive being developed for mosquitoes consists of a gene engineered into the Y chromosome that shreds the X chromosome in the cells that make the mosquito’s sperm, thus ensuring that all progeny are male. Unless the drive itself is damaged through mutation, the number of females would be expected to dwindle each generation until the population collapses.
Read full, original post: Gene Drives Offer New Hope Against Diseases and Crop Pests