Synthetic conservation: Gene drives could revive extinct animals, protect endangered species, knock out pests

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Scientists working in coördination with a U.S. conservation group say they’ve established an evolution-warping technology called a “gene drive” in mammals for the first time and could use it to stamp out invasive rodents ravaging seabirds on islands.

Gene-drive technology, so far demonstrated only in insects and yeast, is a powerful way of biasing the inheritance of DNA such that wild animals can be genetically altered as they reproduce, including to cause a population crash.

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The mice are an early glimpse of an idea being called “synthetic conservation,” in which genetic engineering is viewed as a means to revive extinct animals, offer genetic refills for endangered species with shallow gene pools, or knock out invasive pests ravaging native plants and animals.

The group’s plans have divided ecologists, however, some of whom see a devil’s bargain in the dizzying new power to modify nature. “Conservation means caring for the natural world, not re-engineering it,” says Claire Hope Cummings, an environmental lawyer who says she dropped her support for Island Conservation over its gene-drive work.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: First Gene Drive in Mammals Could Aid Vast New Zealand Eradication Plan

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