Gene drive: progress and prospects

Wedell, N., T. A. R. Price and A. K. Lindholm,  Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,  286:20192709. 2019.

Gene drive is a naturally occurring phenomenon in which selfish genetic elements manipulate gametogenesis and reproduction to increase their own transmission to the next generation. Currently, there is great excitement about the potential of harnessing such systems to control major pest and vector populations. If synthetic gene drive systems can be constructed and applied to key species, they may be able to rapidly spread either modifying or eliminating the targeted populations. This approach has been lauded as a revolutionary and efficient mechanism to control insect-borne diseases and crop pests. Driving endosymbionts have already been deployed to combat the transmission of dengue and Zika virus in mosquitoes. However, there are a variety of barriers to successfully implementing gene drive techniques in wild populations. There is a risk that targeted organisms will rapidly evolve an ability to suppress the synthetic drive system, rendering it ineffective. There are also potential risks of synthetic gene drivers invading nontarget species or populations. This Special Feature covers the current state of affairs regarding both natural and synthetic gene drive systems with the aim to identify knowledge gaps. By understanding how natural drive systems spread through populations, we may be able to better predict the outcomes of synthetic drive release.