In the field of genetics, gene drive is the method which promotes the inheritance of a specified gene for increasing its pervasiveness in the population. It is applied in various fields like for pest removal.
Gene drive is basically disregarding the rules of inheritance by increasing the probability of a gene that needs to be passed to a new generation. This is natural selection process but when we tweak it to make a gene survive throughout the population, disregarding its survival tendencies, we bend the rules of inheritance.
For example, scientists have tried their best to create a population of mosquitoes which have the malaria resistant gene or even trying to help in spreading a deadly gene that can kill the entire population of rodents and insects.
Gene drive is the gene-spreading approach for eradicating the invasive pests or rather, reducing the spread of the insect-borne diseases. Scientists still aren’t sure about the working of the intended gene drive but have already decided how to put an end to it when needed.
THE NEED TO KEEP A CHECK ON GENE DRIVE
Even though the gene drive hasn’t been tested in the wild, researchers are already developing and devising ways to keep the gene drive in check. After all, gene drive cannot be allowed to work without knowing the consequences. It is important to measure the environmental risks that can occur with uninhibited gene drive.
The high profile genetics labs need to stop or reverse the gene drive or the introduction of a new gene if it has an adverse effect on the ecosystem. U.S. military research team even announced that it would fund such efforts.
Controversy has bred owing to the fear that arose because of the introduction of a gene that has the potential to wipe out an entire species or spread in the population like air. CRISPR gene drives have proven to be efficient in the insects that were lab-reared and this has led the scientists and researchers to encroach with caution.
When the large fraction of total population consists of the individuals with the new gene, then only the gene drive can be effective. If the introduced gene ends up having adverse consequences, then the gene drive can be reversed by the introduction of more unchanged and wild individuals for outnumbering the modified ones.
CRISPR brings home another set of unknown, off-target and unpredictable effects on the genome by the gene drive and hence scientists are looking for anti-CRISPR proteins for saving themselves against any unwanted editing.