A gene drive system enables a quick and wide spread of a genetic trait within a population of a particular organism. This effect on a trait is especially feasible in organisms with a short generation time. Gene drives are only effective in sexually reproducing organisms.
Gene drive systems have been known to occur in nature, but only recently have molecular biology advances made it possible to create such systems through biotechnology methods.
A ‘driving’ construct typically consists of two components: A gene or genes encoding an enzyme that recognizes a DNA sequence located in the homologous position of the chromosome where the construct is integrated, and a gene that encodes the trait of interest. While there are different ways to accomplish this goal, the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technique is currently the most widely used.
Application of a gene drive is possible in practices related to health, agriculture and ecology. An example is the application of a gene drive in insects aiming at preventing or even eradicating from certain areas vectors of serious diseases like Malaria, dengue and Lyme. Other possible applications are making resistant insects susceptible to natural toxins, or reducing the chances of survival of invasive or exotic species.
Applications of gene drives are currently only in the R&D phase. Recently described gene drives are applied in fruit flies and mosquitoes and are focused on inheritance and stability.
Some publications and links of interest:
- Requirements for Driving Antipathogen Effector Genes into Populations of Disease Vectors by Homing (June 2017)
- Synthetic gene drives in Australia: implications of emerging technologies, (May 2017)
- Agricultural pest control with CRISPR based gene drive: time for public debate (May 2017)
- First Gene drives in mammals (February 2017)
- Gene drives thwarted by emergence of resistant organisms (Nature, January 2017)
- Modeling Gene Drives in Africa – Seasonal, Spatial and Epidemiological Considerations, (January 2017)
- Reckless Driving: Gene Drives and the end of nature (2016)
- US National Academies report on gene drives, (2016)
- Public briefing on Wednesday, June 8 2016 at 10:00 a.m. EDT for the release of Gene Drives on the Horizon: Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values,
- News message Dutch GMO Office, 2016
- Nature, 2016
- Nature Reviews, 2016
- Concerning RNA-guided gene drives for the alteration of wild populations
- Seeing the upside in gene drives’ fatal flaw, 2016
The page “Gene-drives member area” offers further background information and a possibility for PRRI members to exchange information and comments.
Non PRRI members are welcome to send suggestions and comments to: [info-at-prri.net].
An informal group of PRRI members, lead by Dr. Hector Quemada of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, is monitoring and discussing new publications to help keep updating this page. Other PRRI members are warmly invited to register their participation in that group via: info @ prri.net.