Gene drive gets safety features limiting risk for a tool that could alter entire species

Collins, CH,  Scientific American,  319:37-38. 2018.

Research into a genetic engineering technology that can permanently change the traits of a population or even an entire species is progressing rapidly. The approach uses gene drives—genetic elements that pass from parents to unusually high numbers of their offspring, thereby spreading through populations rather quickly. Gene drives occur naturally but can also be engineered, and doing so could be a boon to humanity in many ways. The technology has the potential to stop insects from transmitting malaria and other terrible infections, enhance crop yields by altering pests that attack plants, render corals resistant to environmental stress, and keep invasive plants and animals from destroying ecosystems. Yet investigators are deeply aware that altering or even eliminating a species could have profound consequences. In response, they are developing rules to govern the transfer of gene drives from the laboratory into future field tests and wider use.