University of Adelaide researchers have released their first findings on the potential effectiveness of a revolutionary gene drive technology for controlling invasive mice.
The team used laboratory mice to develop a world-first proof of concept for the technology – called t-CRISPR.
Using complex computer modeling performed by co-first author Ph.D. Aysegul Birand, the researchers also found that about 250 genetically modified mice could wipe out an island population of 200,000 mice in about 20 years.
The findings are published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Lead researcher Professor Paul Thomas, from the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), said: “This is the first discovery of a new genetic tool to suppress invasive mouse populations by inducing female sterility .”
“The t-CRISPR approach uses cutting-edge DNA editing technology to alter the fertility genes of women. Once the genetic modification saturates the population, all the resulting women will be sterile.
“We are also developing new versions of t-CRISPR technology designed to target specific pest populations to prevent the unwanted spread of gene drives.”
Graduate student Luke Gierus, co-first author of the research paper, said t-CRISPR is the first genetic biological control tool for invasive mammals.
“So far, this technology has targeted insects in an attempt to limit the spread of malaria, which kills as many as 500,000 people globally each year,” he said. Gilles said.
“Using t-CRISPR technology provides a humane way to control invasive mice without releasing toxins into the environment. We are also developing strategies to prevent eradication failures due to gene drive resistance in the target population .”
Professor Thomas said the research team was working closely with Australia’s National Science Service CSIRO, the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, the Genetic Biological Control of Invasive Rodents (GBIRd) Consortium and the USDA to consider the next steps to safely implement the new technology.
“Our broader project includes consideration of social perspectives and attitudes, and is an integral part of our ongoing research related to this gene drive,” Professor Thomas said.
Dr. Owain Edwards, head of CSIRO’s Environmental Mitigation and Resilience Group, added: “This particular prototype was designed to be highly specific to mice, but it also demonstrates that gene drives can be developed against other invasive pest animals.
“As part of this research, we have conducted a safety assessment of this technology to the highest standards. Because this is the first prototype of a vertebrate gene drive, interested stakeholders will include many from the international community.”
The research was supported by the South Australian and New South Wales Governments.
Deputy Prime Minister of South Australia Hon. PhD. Susan Close MP said: “These promising findings suggest that gene drive technology could be a game-changer in managing the impact of mice on our environment, communities and agricultural sectors.
“This cutting-edge research also highlights the global leadership of South Australia’s research sector in finding solutions to social, environmental and economic challenges.”
Luke Gierus et al., using natural murine meiotic drives to suppress invasive populations, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2213308119
Courtesy of the University of Adelaide
Citation: Gene Drive Technology Suppresses Invasive Mice (November 9, 2022) Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-gene-technology-suppress-invasive-mice. html
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