By J. Royden Saah, Program Coordinator, Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents (GBIRd)

Researchers at the University of Adelaide associated with the Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents program (GBIRd) have made a great step forward in the development of a gene drive technology to control invasive mice. The technology – called t-CRISPR – leverages a naturally occurring gene drive to spread faulty-copies of a female fertility gene which overtime impact the mice population’s ability to reproduce. As mentioned by lead researcher and GBIRd member professor Paul Thomas, “this is the first time that a new genetic tool has been identified to suppress invasive mouse populations”.

The mechanism described in the study, published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), predicts that about 250 modified mice could eradicate an island population of 200,000 mice in around 20 years. The findings provide new reasons for optimism regarding the potential use of gene drive technologies as a complementary tool to help address the issue of invasive mice.