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Assisted Driving

Controlling how edited genes spread through a population to better understand the passage of traits

24 February 2023

Assisted Driving

Parents might wish to pass some characteristics more than others to their children. Scientists are exploring new ‘gene drive’ technologies that artificially guide inheritance between generations to control changes made to the genome by CRISPR gene editing. The system involves two components, delivered either together in a ‘full drive’ or separately in a ‘split drive’. Split drives give greater control with less risk of runaway spread through a whole population, and a new approach allows split drives to be ultimately recombined into full, providing both the agility and impact of the two types. Testing the approach in fruit flies (pictured, with green body and red eye markers showcasing the results), researchers dream of eventually applying this to populations such as malaria-carrying mosquitoes to greatly reduce disease spread. They found that the rate of spread of new traits through the population varied in unexpected ways, highlighting that though there’s great potential, there’s still work – and caution – needed to understand the true complexity.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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