Australia (Commonwealth Union) – The CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) gene editing technology continues to be further applied in the scientific world. The technology has been used so far in treating diseases, keeping foods fresh and in certain industrial applications. University of Adelaide scientists have released their initial findings on the possible effectiveness of a gene drive technology to control invasive mice populations.
The team has formed a world-first proof of concept for t-CRISPR which was applied on laboratory mice. Advanced computer modelling was utilized by co-first author Dr Aysegul Birand. The scientists further discovered around 250 gene-modified mice had the ability to eliminate an island population of 200,000 mice in approximately 20 years.
Findings of the study were published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.
Professor Paul Thomas the lead researcher from the University of Adelaide, and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, stated that it was first time a new genetic tool was identified to stamp out invasive mouse populations by triggering female infertility. “The t-CRISPR approach uses cutting-edge DNA editing technology to make alterations to a female fertility gene. Once the population is saturated with the genetic modification, all the females that are generated will be infertile,” said Professor Thomas. “We are also developing new versions of t-CRISPR technology that are designed to target specific pest populations to prevent unwanted spread of the gene drive,” he added.
Professor Thomas also stated that the study team had worked together with Australia’s National Science Agency CSIRO, the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, the Genetic Biocontrol for Invasive Rodents consortium and the US Department of Agriculture to examine the next moves in safely applying the new technology. He further stated that their broader project also considers societal expression and attitudes which is essential for their continued research linked to the gene drive.