Gene drives could speed up inheritance of certain beneficial traits in mammals, study finds

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Researchers have used CRISPR, the genome editing tool, to speed the inheritance of specific genes in mammals for the first time. Demonstrated in lab-reared insects several years ago, this controversial “gene-drive” strategy promises the ability to quickly spread a gene throughout an entire species. It has sparked dreams of deploying lethal genes to eradicate pests such as malaria-carrying mosquitoes—and now, perhaps, crop-damaging, disease-causing mammals such as rabbits, mice, and rats.

The new research aims to create novel strains of lab mice, not wipe out wild populations, and it shows that gene drives work less efficiently in rodents than in insects.

[The] researchers built their gene drive by engineering female mice to carry the gene for the DNA-cutting enzyme Cas9, one of CRISPR’s two components; they engineered males to carry a gene for the other component, the guide RNA (gRNA) that shuttles Cas9 to a specific target on a genome, plus a gene that modifies coat color. Breeding the altered mice created pups that had the genes for both CRISPR components on different chromosomes.

Related article:  We can identify 'bad' genes. Why can't we use CRISPR gene editing to get rid of them?

[I]n females, the gene drive succeeded. It copied the coat color modifying gene to the partner chromosome in many eggs.

[Researcher Kimberly] Cooper and her colleagues write that this system of “active genetic elements” could speed the creation of mice that have several introduced or crippled genes.

Read full, original post: ‘Gene drive’ passes first test in mammals, speeding up inheritance in mice

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