Employing gene drives to protect rare species comes with risks

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There is an ambitious poison baiting campaign currently being planned for Gough [island] in an attempt to control rodent numbers and give [rare] birds a chance to recover.

[A]ttention is now turning to new technologies that could offer more targeted solutions [to pest problems].

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One derivative system, synthetic RNA guided gene drives (gene drive), which is based on CRISPR/Cas9, has provided new hope of delivering much needed solutions for threatened species conservation.

Gene drives occur in nature, and so the potential for these naturally occurring gene drives to be used to introduce engineered genes to a genome have been studied for quite some time by molecular biologists.

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For example, researchers have successfully used this artificial gene drive technology in the lab to disperse a trait through a group of mosquitoes that made them no longer able to carry the malaria parasite.

While the possibilities for such applications seem endless, the excitement generated by these technologies is tempered by the need to consider the associated risks.

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One thing is clear, we will never get closer to answering the questions raised by gene drive without undertaking fundamental research in this area of science. Without developing our understanding of gene drive technologies in the lab, we won’t know if they are a viable solution or not.

Read full, original post: Taking a responsible approach to new genetic technologies for conservation

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