Regulating 'Gene Drives'

Members of the Program on Emerging Technologies (PoET) team are calling for thoughtful, well-informed, public discussions to explore the responsible use of gene drive technology in two recently published articles.

Imagine a scientific technique that would alter the genes of mosquitos to render them unable to transmit malaria. Scientists have made notable progress in recent years in editing the genomes of organisms, substituting in variants of certain genes; these variants could then propagate throughout a population. Gene drives are a method for spreading altered traits through wild popultations over many generations. Such gene drives could potentially prevent the spread of diseases, support agriculture by reversing pesticide and herbicide resistance in insects and weeds, and control damaging invasive species.

The concept of gene drives has been around for more than a decade but has remained theoretical due to technical limitations. However, with the recent development of CRISPR-Cas9 RNA technology, gene drives now represent a more realistic possibility. The benefits of such technology must also be weighed against its risks. The possibility of unwanted ecological effects and the likelihood of spread across political borders demand careful assessment of each potential application.

Access the articles by clicking on the links below:


Regulating Gene Drives
Kenneth Oye, Kevin Esvelt, Evan Appleton, Flaminia Catteruccia, George Church, Todd Kuiken, Shlomiya Bar-Yam Lightfoot, Julie McNamara, Andrea Smidler, & James P. Collins

Concerning RNA-guided gene drives for the alteration of wild populations
Kevin M Esvelt, Andrea L Smidler, Flaminia Catteruccia, George M Church


Press relating to the articles above:


     MIT Spotlight today – three questions interview with Oye on Science piece.

     Oye Podcast at Science Express

     Altering Genes In Wild Populations: Boon For Human Health? Or Darwinian Nightmare?

     Genetically Engineering Almost Anything

     Science News, US Researchers Call for Greater Oversight of Powerful Genetic Technology

     Genetic Engineering to the Rescue of Endangered Species?

     A call to fight malaria one mosquito at a time by altering DNA

     Proposed Gene Technology Could Alter Organisms in the Wild

     Protect Society from Our Inventions, Say Genome-Editing Scientists

     Site-specific selfish genes as tools for the control and genetic engineering of natural populations

     Scientists proceed with caution towards new gene mutation technology