Can gene editing wipe out invasive island mice?

Biologists are considering the use of gene drives to eliminate invasive rodents in island ecosystems. Credit: Island Conservation

Editing the genes of invasive mice could drive them to extinction on islands where they’ve become established within 25 years, researchers found. By using the gene-editing tool CRISPR, researchers believe they could create a gene drive that would make mouse offspring infertile, gradually reducing their population. 

Invasive rodents can be devastating to island ecosystems, sometimes wiping out native species. 

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers tested the gene drive using a computer simulation of an island with 200,000 mice. But they also tried it with a population of mice in the lab. They say the next step will be to test it on mice in secure enclosures, with safety mechanisms in place so other mice are unaffected in case they escape.

Read more in Science News.