Crop Biotech Update

First Gene Drive in Mammals Could Help Eradicate Invasive Rodents

February 15, 2017

Scientists in Australia are working with a conservation team in the U.S. to conduct the first gene drive in mammals aimed at eradicating invasive rodents attacking seabirds on islands.

Gene drive technology is a new way of changing the trend of inheritance so that wild animals can be genetically enhanced when born, for instance, to cause a significant decline in the population. This technology has been used in insects, particularly in mosquitoes to get rid of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and zika.

Paul Thomas, a mouse geneticist at the University of Adelaide, developed "daughterless mice" using CRISPR technology. Since the mice will only produce male offspring, the mouse populations on an island will decline and eventually be zero if the technique becomes effective. To trace the genetically altered mice, the researchers also enabled the expression of an inheritable fluorescent protein in the mice which will make them glow red when exposed to blacklight.

When this technique turns out to be effective, it can be a favorable alternative to applying poisons to eradicate rodents.

For more information, read the original article in MIT Technology Review.