Gene Drives

newgenedrive

On January 11th we learned about gene drives and explored their safety and regulation. This brought up key questions:

  • Can we really know enough about our environment to make gene drives safe?
  • Are there any issues with the currently advertised safety measures for gene drives?
  • What would be the ideal characteristics of a gene drive regulatory strategy?
  • How can gene drives be implemented responsibly?
  • What regulatory body would be qualified to make a decision about the use of a gene drive?

What do you think? Please join the discussion in the comments below.

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One thought on “Gene Drives

  1. The biggest potential issue I see with this is evolution. Chances for evolutionary escape are limited in the lab and are usually observed at extremely low frequency. However, even a very low escape frequency will quickly overtake the entire population, and opportunities for escape are much greater in the wild. Even aside from spontaneous mutations, there’s the opportunity for virus-mediated spread of resistance, off-target mating (mating with a different species or population) to acquire resistance genes. And once those mutations are present in the population, the extremely strong selective pressure will ensure that they spread rapidly. This is the same issue we have had with insecticides and antibiotics.
    There are some measures taken to prevent this, such as redundant kill switches (so that the organism must simultaneously accumulate multiple mutations) and “fail-safe” switches meant to kill the organism if any of the key components is mutated. But we must remember that each of those mechanisms are also subject to the same methods of evolutionary evasion and escape. In my opinion, given the huge number of mosquitos in the wild, the relatively slow geographical spread of any genetic component, and the extremely high selective pressure, it’s not a question of whether evolutionary escape will occur, but how soon.

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