Scientists caution against ‘gene drive’ field tests

A proposal to get rid of pests by using gene-editing technology could have unintended ramifications, a new study published on the preprint server bioRxiv concludes. The so-called “gene drive” strategy would use the CRISPR gene-editing technique to reduce an invasive species’s fertility, causing the population to collapse. The concept has been presented a possible solution for ridding the world of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, but poses unacceptable risk to wild populations essential to their ecosystem, The New York Times reports. The researchers, who used mathematical modeling to predict how gene drives might spread from their original targets, show even the most conservative systems now available could be highly invasive and spread to nontarget populations.

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