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Gene Drive Tried in Lab Mice

A team of University of California, San Diego researchers has developed a CRISPR-based gene drive to use in lab mice, Nature News reports.

UCSD's Kimberly Cooper and her colleagues designed a CopyCat element encoding a gRNA that they used to disrupt the Tyrosinase gene (Tyr) in the mice, as they describe in a preprint posted to BioRxiv. Mice with homozygous loss-of-function in Tyr are albino. She and her colleagues report they were able to boost the probability that that gene would be inherited from 50 percent to 73 percent, though Nature News notes that the approach only worked in female embryos.

Research teams, including one from Island Conservation, are exploring the use of gene drives to control populations of invasive pests, including of rodents in New Zealand to help conserve local seabirds.

"There's an indication it could work, but it's also sobering," the University of Adelaide's Paul Thomas, who was not involved in the research, tells Nature News. "It's a lot longer to go where you could consider gene drives for a useful tool for population control of rodents."