New ‘Split-drive’ System Puts Scientists in the (Gene) Driver Seat

M. Aguilera,  UC San Diego News Center,  2021.

Powerful new genetic engineering methods have given scientists the potential to revolutionize several sectors of global urgency. The split-drive system was developed so transgenes could be naturally separated.  So-called gene drives, which leverage CRISPR technology to influence genetic inheritance, carry the promise of rapidly spreading specific genetic traits throughout populations of a given species. Gene-drive technologies applied in insects, for example, are being designed to halt the spread of devastating diseases such as malaria and dengue by preventing mosquito hosts from becoming infected. In agricultural fields, gene-drives are being developed to help control or eliminate economically damaging crop pests. But along with the capacity to alter populations, concerns have been raised regarding the long-term effects of these transformative new technologies in the wild. Researchers and ethicists have voiced questions about how gene drives, once turned loose in a regional population, could be held in check if necessary. Now, researchers at the University of California San Diego, Tata Institute for Genetics and Society (TIGS) at UC San Diego and their colleagues at UC Berkeley have developed a new method that provides more control over gene drive releases. Details of the new “split drive” are published March 5 in the journals Nature Communications and eLife.

More related to this:

Scientists Evaluate Environmental Impacts of Gene Drive Organisms

Scientist fight plan to release gene-hacked mosquitoes in TX, FL.

Why are scientists creating genetically modified mosquitoes?