The Genetic Rescue Foundation Blog

Gene drives thwarted by emergence of resistant organisms

Until this obstacle is overcome, the technology is unlikely to succeed in the wild.

“These things are not going to get too far in terms of eradicating a population,” says Michael Wade, an evolutionary geneticist at Indiana University Bloomington. Gene drives could result in the genetic isolation — in which populations do not mate with each other — of groups that manage to avoid inheriting the modified genetic code, he and his colleagues found. And gene variants that decrease a population’s propensity to mingle with other populations — such as those that limit flight capacity in insects — would suddenly prove beneficial and could spread.

Resistance to gene drives is unavoidable, so researchers are hoping that they can blunt the effects long enough to spread a desired mutation throughout a population. Some have floated the idea of creating gene drives that target multiple genes, or several sites within the same gene, diminishing the speed with which resistance would develop. By surveying a species’ natural genetic diversity, researchers could target genes common to all individuals.

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How to decide which extinct species we should resurrect

De-extinction could soon become reality – and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature is already making plans to encourage proper use of the technology.

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Gene editing starts to save lives as human trials get under way

Gene editing involves altering or disabling existing genes, which used to be extremely difficult. It took many years to develop the gene-editing tool that saved Layla, but thanks to a revolutionary method known as CRISPR, this can now be done in just weeks.

In fact, CRISPR works so well that the first human trial involving the method has already begun. In China, it is being used to disable a gene called PD-1 in immune cells taken from individuals with cancer. The edited cells are then injected back into each person’s body. PD-1 codes for an “off switch” on the surface of immune cells, and many cancers evolve the ability to thwart immune attacks by flipping the PD-1 switch to “off”. On the edited immune cells there is no switch for cancer cells to flip.

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CRISPR toolbox expanded by protein that cuts RNA in two distinct ways

UC Berkeley biochemist Jennifer Doudna, molecular biologist Robert Tijan and a team of researchers have expanded the role of the newly discovered CRISPR protein C2c2 that targets RNA instead of DNA.

C2c2 has been described as an RNA-guided RNA-cutting enzyme; however, a full understanding of how this protein acts to cleave RNA was lacking. In a paper published today in Nature titled “Two distinct RNase activities of CRISPR-C2c2 enable guide-RNA processing and RNA detection,” the researchers were able to show that C2c2 has not one, as previously thought, but two distinct RNA cutting activities that in concert can be harnessed for robust RNA detection and degradation.

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The beginning of the end for predators?

The government has announced its intention to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050. Prime Minister John Key said rats, possums and stoats kill 25 million native birds a year. He said the introduced pests also threatened the country’s economy and primary sector with a total cost of $3.3 billion a year. More than 7000 hectares of the New Zealand mainland as well as more than 150 offshore islands were now completely free of predators, Mr Key said. In addition a further 1 million hectares of conservation land were under sustained predator control. The government will invest $28 million in a new joint venture company called Predator Free New Zealand Ltd.

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We can now alter the genomes of invasive species to slow their advance. Should we?

It’s a familiar story on islands all over the world where rodents — prolific feeders and breeders — are a leading cause of extinctions. Massive efforts have been undertaken to kill invasive rodents and usually involve broadcasting rodenticide; other options, like trapping mice or releasing biological controls in the form of snakes or cats, have been ineffective.

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Rare Dinosaur-Era Bird Wings Found Trapped in Amber

Bone, tissue, and feathers show the almost 100-million-year-old wings are remarkably similar to those on modern birds.

wings

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