Gene drive research is in the early stages. Learn about where the technology stands and what researchers hope to accomplish.
According to the National Academy of Sciences “Gene Drives on the Horizon” (2016):
“Gene drives are systems of biased inheritance that enhance the ability of a genetic element to pass from an organism to its offspring through sexual reproduction. A wide variety of gene drives occur in nature. Researchers have been studying these natural mechanisms throughout the 20th century…”
Gene drives occur naturally in the genomes of many of our world’s species and can be carried on with an inheritance rate greater than 50%. The drives can bias inheritance of a particular gene to make it a dominant feature in a population. Scientists have learned how to utilize this by linking specific genes to a specific drive. Island Conservation, CSIRO, Landcare Research, North Carolina State University, Texas A&M University, University of Adelaide, and USDA’s APHIS have formed the Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents program (GBIRd) to see if gene drives can be used to remove invasive rodents from islands and prevent the extinction of endangered island wildlife.
Although the GBIRd partners are hopeful that one day this technology will be available, there is more research that needs happen first. Dr. Owain Edwards, Group Leader of Environmental and Synthetic Genomics at CSIRO explains the current state of gene drive research and how this technology could help conservationists in the future.