Synthetic gene drives as an anthropogenic evolutionary force

A. D. Cutter,  Trends in Genetics,  2023.

Genetic drive represents a fundamental evolutionary force that can exact profound change to the genetic composition of populations by biasing allele transmission. Herein I propose that the use of synthetic homing gene drives, the human-mediated analog of endogenous genetic drives, warrants the designation of ‘genetic welding’ as an anthropogenic evolutionary force. Conceptually, this distinction parallels that of artificial and natural selection. Genetic welding is capable of imposing complex and rapid heritable phenotypic change on entire populations, whether motivated by biodiversity conservation or public health. Unanticipated possible long-term evolutionary outcomes, however, demand further investigation and bioethical consideration. The emerging importance of genetic welding also compels our explicit recognition of genetic drive as an addition to the other four fundamental forces of evolution.


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