Sci-fi technology: Environmentalist Liz O’Neill is adamant about genetics – the next generation of genetic engineering (GM) technology.
“It’s very worrying,” said the director of the UK’s anti-GM group, GM Freeze. “Releasing something specifically designed in the laboratory to transcend nature, and to spread. It without discrimination among wildlife, is an amazing feat.
“And once the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t put it back.”
The way the gene works sounds like something from a science fiction novel.
While generic GM introduces a new gene, labeled into an organism, genetic Sci-fi technology is advancing. Introduce a gene drive – a genetically engineered gene that can replicate itself automatically – that directs and removes a specific gene.
Here’s how it works: if an animal (parent A). That contains a gene meets it (parent B), then in the embryo begins to combine its genes. The gene A parent arrives immediately. function.
It detects a genetic mutation in a chromosome opposite the parent B. And it destroys it, cutting it out of the DNA sequence. Parent Chrome B then repairs itself – but does so, by copying the parent A gene drive A.
50% more likely than normal GM – because the embryo takes on a genetic component for each parent.
This tells it to point out its natural version in the DNA of another newborn fetus. The gene drive also contains the enzyme that makes the actual cutting.
So, what is the point of such a sophisticated technology? It is hoped that the genes could be used to significantly reduce the incidence of malaria. Other parasites or other invasive species.
This process is more efficient than conventional DNA. Because since every single gene has a genetic trait that spreads faster and faster.
One of the leading organizations in this regard is Target Malaria. Which has developed genes that prevent mosquitoes from reproducing female offspring. This is important for two reasons – only females bite, and without females, mosquito numbers will decrease.
The ultimate goal is to significantly reduce the number of malaria deaths. Sadly at 627,000 by 2020, according to the World Health Organization.
It may also reduce the economic impact of the disease. With 241 million cases by 2020, mainly in Africa.
The financial impact of invasive species – everything from sugarcane frogs. To lionfish, brown snakes, fruit flies, zebra mussels, and Japanese knotweed – is even higher. They cost the US and Canada $ 26bn (£ 21bn) a year. According to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Invasive Species Information Center. Globally, it contributes $ 1.29tn over the past 50 years.
However, campaigners like Liz O’Neill argue that the risk of unintended consequences. Such as genetic predisposition to dangerous and unintended genetic mutations and side effects, is very high.
GM on highly charged steroids
“Gene drives are GM on highly charged steroids,” he said. “All the concern one might have for the use of any genetic modification is very disturbing.
However, although technology has not yet been approved for use in the field. There is no ongoing ban on laboratory research in it. After a heated debate in 2018, the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity decided that this could continue.
Dr Jonathan Kayondo is the chief investigator of Target Malaria in Uganda. He points out that natural genes already exist – dominant or more “selfish genes” than the weakest. He also emphasized that in continuing to improve genetics, safety is still a major concern.
“Malaria is one of the oldest diseases in the world, and despite decades of effort. The child is still dying from malaria every minute,” he said.
“New approaches are urgently needed as both the malaria parasite. And the parasite of malaria are increasingly able to withstand current trends. Gene drive methods may be part of an integrated approach to malaria control, combined with existing interventions.”
Dr Kayondo added that Target Malaria continues to test mosquitoes for mosquitoes at Imperial College London. And at the Italian research company, the Polo GGB.
He adds: “The work is progressing slowly, and each step is being tested for Sci-fi technology
And the project will not proceed if evidence of concern for human, animal. Or environmental safety concerns makes technology unacceptable to participating and national governments. Governments.”
Leading genetic developers
One of the world’s leading genetic developers is US biologist Kevin Esvelt. An assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He first came up with the technology back in 2013.
Professor Esvelt points out that safety is a major concern.
“Given the ability of genes to transform all species of wildlife as well as the environment. The development of these technologies must include strong protection and control mechanisms,” he said.
Prof Esvelt adds that this Sci-fi technology is provided with a so-called “daisy chain”. This is where the genetic drive is designed to malfunction after a few generations. Or reduce its spread by half all generations un