University of Adelaide researchers have published their first insights into the potential effectiveness of revolutionary gene drive technology for controlling invasive mice.
The team has developed a world-first proof of concept for the technology, called t-CRISPR, using laboratory mice.
Using sophisticated computer models developed by co-first author Dr. Aysegul Birand, the researchers also found that about 250 genetically modified mice could wipe out an island population of 200,000 mice in about 20 years.
The results of the study were published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“This is the first time a new genetic tool has been identified to suppress invasive mouse populations by inducing female infertility,” said lead researcher Professor Paul Thomas from the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute ( SAHMRI).
“The t-CRISPR approach uses cutting-edge DNA editing technology to make changes to a female fertility gene. Once the population is saturated with the genetic modification, all females produced will be sterile.
“We are also developing new versions of t-CRISPR technology designed to target specific pest populations to prevent unwanted gene drive spread.”
PhD student Luke Gierus, a co-first author on the research, said t-CRISPR is the first genetic biocontrol tool for invasive mammals.
“Until now, this technology has targeted insects to try to stem the spread of malaria, which causes up to 500,000 deaths annually worldwide,” said Mr. Gierus.
“The use of t-CRISPR technology offers a humane approach to controlling invasive mice without the release of toxins into the environment. We are also working on strategies to prevent failed eradication due to the emergence of gene drive resistance in the target population .”
Professor Thomas said the research team worked closely with Australia’s National Science Agency CSIRO, the Center for Invasive Species Solutions, the Genetic Biocontrol for Invasive Rodents (GBIRd) consortium and the US Department of Agriculture to determine the next steps to safely implement the new technology to consider.
“Our broader project involves considering societal views and attitudes and is an integral part of our ongoing research into this gene drive,” said Professor Thomas.
dr Owain Edwards, CSIRO Group Leader for Environmental Mitigation and Resilience, added: “This particular prototype was designed to be highly specific for mice, but it is also proof that gene drives can be engineered against other invasive pests.
“As part of this research, we are conducting the safety assessments for this technology to the highest standards. As this is the first prototype gene drive for vertebrates, interested stakeholders will include many from the international community.”
The research was supported by the South Australian Government and the NSW Government.
South Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Susan Close MP said: “These promising results demonstrate how gene drive technology can be a game changer in addressing the impact of mice on our environment, society and agricultural sector.
“This cutting-edge research also underscores the global leadership of the South Australian research sector in finding solutions to social, environmental and economic challenges.”
Luke Gierus et al., Harnessing a Natural Murine Meiotic Drive to Suppress Invasive Populations, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2213308119
Provided by the University of Adelaide
Citation: Gene Drive Technology to Suppress Invasive Mice (2022 November 9) Retrieved November 9, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-gene-technology-suppress-invasive-mice-1 .html
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