Hijacking Evolution with Gene Editing

Flouting the laws of inheritance and evolution

#Science

Thu, Nov 19th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Considering that the "key molecular tools" used for gene editing can be bought on eBay for "probably less than $10,000," scientists are urging care when modifying the DNA of plants and animals, especially when some of the genes are being made dominant, with potentially unknown collateral effects if released in nature.

Where poisoning, hunting, freezing, and whacking have failed, gene drive might succeed. One idea would be to drive a gene that makes the toads die when they’re exposed to an otherwise-harmless compound. Gene drive might similarly eliminate other invasive species, including the zebra mussels clogging the Great Lakes, the Asian carp driving native species out of America’s waterways, and the pythons that have obliterated raccoons and rabbits in Florida’s Everglades.

While that may sound ecologically worthwhile, intervening in nature seldom goes as planned. For one thing, these invasive species are also established species, said environmental biologist Todd Kuiken of the Woodrow Wilson Center. “I don’t think we have a good way to evaluate what happens if we remove a species from a system as large as” the Great Lakes, let alone Australia, he said.

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