Resistance to CRISPR gene drives may arise easily | Science News

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Resistance to CRISPR gene drives may arise easily

Fruit fly experiments show hurdles remain before gene-editor can be used to control disease, pests

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4:35pm, July 20, 2017
fruit flies

RED FLAG A new genetic technology called gene drives may be easily thwarted, experiments with fruit flies suggest. The red flies shown here inherited a gene drive carrying a red fluorescent protein.

A genetic-engineering tool designed to spread through a population like wildfire — eradicating disease and even whole invasive species — might be more easily thwarted than thought.

Resistance to the tools, called CRISPR gene drives, arose at high rates in experiments with Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies, researchers at Cornell University report July 20 in PLOS Genetics. Rates of resistance varied among strains of fruit flies collected around the world, from a low of about 4 percent in embryos from an Ithaca, N.Y., strain to a high of about 56 percent in Tasmanian fruit fly embryos.

“At these rates, the constructs would not start spreading in the population,” says coauthor Philipp Messer, a population geneticist. “It might require quite a bit more work to get a gene drive that works at all.”

Gene drives are basically

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