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The Potential Good and Bad

Gene drives might be able to decimate mosquito populations that carry diseases like dengue or Zika and might be able to protect endangered species by limiting their predators, but it also might make things worse, writes Ohio State University's Steve Rissing at the Columbus Dispatch.

"But what don't we know? What if a gene drive starts to drive the wrong gene? What if it jumps to a closely related, but non-target species? What if an even worse disease vector or invasive species replaces the one we eliminated?" he asks.

The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released a report on gene drives. In it, the academy called for additional study of gene drives and what ecological effects they could if deployed. The report also urges researchers to use multiple containment layers while more research is conducted to guard against accidental release.

This report, Rissing says, "provides a sober accounting of potential costs and benefits of using gene drives." He then calls for "'scientific literacy drivers' for policymakers and people who elect them."

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.