Concerning RNA-guided gene drives for the alteration of wild populations

Esvelt, KMS, Andrea L.; Catteruccia, Flaminia; Church, George M.,  eLife,  3:e03401. 2014.

Gene drives may be capable of addressing ecological problems by altering entire; populations of wild organisms, but their use has remained largely theoretical due to technical; constraints. Here we consider the potential for RNA-guided gene drives based on the CRISPR; nuclease Cas9 to serve as a general method for spreading altered traits through wild populations; over many generations. We detail likely capabilities, discuss limitations, and provide novel; precautionary strategies to control the spread of gene drives and reverse genomic changes. The; ability to edit populations of sexual species would offer substantial benefits to humanity and the; environment. For example, RNA-guided gene drives could potentially prevent the spread of; disease, support agriculture by reversing pesticide and herbicide resistance in insects and weeds,; and control damaging invasive species. However, the possibility of unwanted ecological effects and; near-certainty of spread across political borders demand careful assessment of each potential; application. We call for thoughtful, inclusive, and well-informed public discussions to explore the; responsible use of this currently theoretical technology.