Gene Drives use genetic engineering to pass on specifically chosen genes to offspring. It’s controversial, because it could alter a species, or even wipe them out – in theory. Many have suggested their use on mosquitos to eliminate the threat of malaria, or even rid an entire island of a specific pest. CRISPR Gene Drives have in fact shown promise in insects, but no one has dared try them on mammals. Until now.
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In July, researchers announced a successful gene drive in mice, although the results were actually mixed.
A team at the University of California, San Diego, tried to spread a gene mutation that would alter the coloring of mice from brown or black to white. The gene drive led to female offspring being white, but no males and occasionally there were errors.
“It is much easier in mosquitos and flies” – Gaétan Burgio
Given the technically and biological complexities in mammals, many experts are left skeptical that a gene drive will be 100% successful in the wild for the next few years.