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expert reaction to the successful development of gene drives in mice

Research published in Nature demonstrates the successful development of gene drives in mice.

Prof Luke Alphey, Arthropod Genetics Group, The Pirbright Institute, said:

“This is an interesting first step towards an engineered gene drive in mice.  The authors obtained only a modest degree of gene drive, and only in females, and only when they used some genetic tricks to limit the timing of their gene drive activity to a fairly narrow window in egg development.  All this suggests that considerable optimisation will be required to develop a gene drive system suitable for proposed field applications such as control of invasive rodent populations on islands for conservation purposes; the authors therefore conclude that in this respect “both the optimism and the concerns are likely to be premature.”

Prof Bruce Whitelaw, Professor of Animal Biotechnology, Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, said:

“Gene drives court controversy but present an elegant genetic approach to accelerate genetic change within a given population. This paper demonstrates, what was already assumed likely, that gene drives can work in mammals. The authors test a series of transgene combinations, mostly with mouse lines that were already available to the research community, to determine the efficiency of homology driven recombination (called HDR) within different cells of the animal. They conclude that only in the female germline does HDR function more effectively than the alternative recombination process NHEJ (non-homologous end joining). The paper is therefore important as it both demonstrates mammalian gene drive for the first time and starts to clarify the aspects and limitations of the process in mammals. The authors correctly state how this approach could make huge positive 3Rs impact for laboratory animal use while pointing the way to the still far off but feasible application in wild animals.”

‘Super-Mendelian inheritance mediated by CRISPR–Cas9 in the female mouse germline’ by Cooper et al. was published in Nature at 18:00 UK time on Wednesday 23rd January.

Declared interests

Bruce Whitelaw: “My research is largely funded by the BBSRC. I also receive funds from the commercial animal breeding sector, including Genus plc. I receive financial gain from being an advisor to Roslin Technologies, Recombinetics and Tropical Animal Genetics.”

Prof Luke Alphey: “I was the co-founder and CSO of Oxitec, but no longer have any financial interest in Oxitec. The Pirbright Institute receives strategic funding from BBSRC. ”

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