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Cell Biology

Gene Drive Mutations

New biotechnology from CRISPR technology, and the result is scary.

In 2014, scientists at Harvard University not only used the CRISPR system to cut a chromosome in a particular location, but they managed to insert at this point new DNA and genetic information that codes for CRISPR itself. This allowed the CRISPR and other new information to copy themselves into the other paired chromosome (in adult cells the genetic material consists of pairs of chromosomes, one from each parent). So, if the CRISPR system was edited into one chromosome of a pair, it would self-copy into the other chromosome as well. Thus, if this were in the germ line cells, all the offspring of that parent would inherit the new information. In this way the proportion of individuals with this new information would quickly go to 100% in just a few generations. This has been tried on problematic insects like mosquitos and fruit flies to intentionally render future generations sterile and thus prevent these insects from reproducing. However, when it comes to people, there is real potential for evil with this process.

Related Terms

  • CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats)
  • Mutation