Gene Drive Organisms: A New Dimension of Genetic Engineering – Applications, Risks and Regulation

Volker Henn and Mareike Imken (stop-genedrives.eu)

Enabled by new genetic engineering techniques such as CRISPR/Cas9, so-called gene drives have been developed in recent years that enable humans to spread new genes throughout the genome of wild animal populations. Gene drives force the inheritance of newly introduced genes to be inherited by all offspring, even if this lowers the survival chances of the affected species. In the most extreme case, gene drive technology could drive an entire species to extinction or replace wild populations with genetically modified organisms.

… The realization of Burt‘s idea of repurposing ‘selfish‘ genetic elements for human purposes failed for a long time due to technical hurdles. That changed in 2012, when Jennifer Doudna and Emanuelle Charpentier, now both Nobel laureates, recognized the potential of the CRISPR/Cas9 system for biotechnology.2 In bacteria, it can serve as a kind of immune system to provide protection against viruses: The CRISPR sequence in the bacteria‘s genome recognizes the invader and activates enzymes that attack the virus and cut up its genome.

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