In a recent edition, The Biologist magazine explores how gene drive works and how it could potentially benefit the environment, public health and agriculture. Scientists from the Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) broadly explain the main strategies genes can use to achieve ‘drive’, interference and over-replication, as well as the current state of CRISPR-based gene drive research. Although optimistic about the tool, the authors highlight that, before releasing gene drive organisms, it is necessary to conduct an in-depth analysis of their ecological impacts, a case-by-case risk assessment and meaningful engagement with potentially affected communities.
The Roslin Institute, famous for creating Dolly the Sheep, is investigating the potential use of gene drive for conservation purposes. Scientists aim to use gene drive to suppress the population of the invasive grey squirrels in the UK to save the red squirrels – the native species in the region. The grey squirrels carry squirrel pox, which is lethal for the red species currently in danger of extinction in the UK.