Researchers Create New System for Safer Gene-Drive Testing and Development

M. Aguilera,  UC San Diego Today,  2023.

In the journal Nature Communications, University of California San Diego researchers led by former Postdoctoral Scholar Gerard Terradas together with Postdoctoral Scholar Zhiqian Li and Professor Ethan Bier, in close collaboration with UC Berkeley graduate student Jared Bennett and Associate Professor John Marshall, describe the development of a new system for testing and developing gene drives in the laboratory and safely converting them into tools for potential real-world applications. “These studies both empower new engineering of gene-drive systems while providing important information regarding how to assess and analyze key interactions between their most important moving parts,” said Bier, a faculty member in the School of Biological Sciences, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. CRISPR-based gene drives feature a protein called a Cas9 endonuclease and a guide RNA molecule that join forces to direct DNA cuts to specific sites in the genome where new genetic elements can be inserted. As the DNA repairs these cuts, the new genetic elements are copied from one chromosome to another, resulting in offspring that exceed the standard 50-50 percent inheritance, instead favoring the newly inserted genetic elements.

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