Innovative technology to stop invasive mice

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  • Using laboratory mice, the scientists created the first proof-of-concept for this technology, known as t-CRISPR.

The researchers also discovered that a population of 200,000 mice on an island might be wiped out by about 250 genetically altered mice in about 20 years.

Today’s issue of the esteemed international publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences featured the findings (USA).

The South Australian Institute of Health and Medical Research (SAHMRI) and University of Adelaide senior investigator Professor Paul Thomas stated: “A unique genetic technique has been developed to control invasive mice populations by inducing female infertility. We have never done this before,” he declared.

In order to stop the unintended spread of the gene drive, “we are also creating new forms of t-CRISPR technology that are geared to target specific pest populations.”

“The t-CRISPR method modifies the genes responsible for female fertility using state-of-the-art DNA editing technology. All newly produced females will be infertile once genetic alteration has completely saturated the population.

The research paper’s co-first author and graduate student Luke Gierus claimed that t-CRISPR was the first genetic biocontrol method for invading mammals.

To date, this technology has been directed towards insects in an effort to stop the spread of malaria, which results in up to 500,000 fatalities annually throughout the world.

“Using t-CRISPR technology offers a humane method of eradicating invading mice without poisoning the environment. Additionally, we are developing plans to avoid eradication efforts failing because gene drive resistance has emerged in the target population. Professor Thomas stated that the research team had closely collaborated with the US Department of Agriculture, the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, the Genetic Biocontrol for Invasive Rodents (GBIRd) consortium, Australia’s National Science Agency CSIRO, and the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions to consider the following steps toward safely implementing the new technology. “Our broader project includes considering societal views and attitudes and is an integral part of our ongoing research on this gene drive,” says Professor Thomas.

Environmental Mitigation and Resilience Group leader Dr. Owain Edwards added: We are evaluating this technology’s safety to the highest standards as part of our study. Since this is the first iteration of a vertebrate gene drive, there are numerous interested parties worldwide.

The governments of South Australia and New South Wales funded this research.

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