Species of Invasive House Mice have been not just a nuisance, but potentially dangerous and damaging on islands for hundreds of years. These house mice can be dangerous, as they have the potential to spread diseases by getting into food stores or biting humans, to cause asthma or allergy flare ups, and to bring unwanted insects such as fleas, ticks, or lice into a home. Scientists have been looking for a way to remove these invasive pests from homes throughout time, and to no avail. Now, they have found a new way to eliminate entire populations of these pests at a time in a mere 25 years.
With the emergence of DNA editing technology, scientists have found a way to edit the mice’ DNA so that a certain chunk of the edited DNA is inherited way more often than the average trait. This lab-created trait is called a gene drive, which had in the past been used to successfully reduce many pesky populations of insects before, but had not been proven effective in mammals. To fix this issue, scientists decided that they most discover more about the haplotypes, which are “naturally occurring group(s) of genes that gets passed on as a unit during replication” within house mice. They discovered that the t-haplotype within house mice get passed on to offspring 95% of the time, instead of the usual percentage of 50%. The editing of this t-haplotype was found to be very favorable. This haplotype evolved naturally within these house mice, meaning that will continue to be present in the wild, and there is no projection of resistance to this haploytpe being found anytime soon. Another reason why the editing of this gene sequence is favorable is that it is only present in the invasive species of house mice, meaning that it will not effect other noninvasive species
Now the only question is, how will scientists change this haplotype? Well, as CRISPR technology is emerging and evolving, it has been found as the obvious tool to use to edit this gene. Molecular Biologists have used CRISPR to edit the mice’ DNA to add the CRISPR tool into the t-haplotype. There are two affects of this change, when male mice with a heterozygous genotype of the edited gene mate, the CRISPR genes inserted will cause any baby female mice created to be infertile. The other effect of this genetic change is that males with the homozygous genotype of the edited gene will be sterile.
Now you might be asking, “has this format gene editing to eliminate the population of the invasive house mice actually been proven effective in any way?” Well, the answer to that is complicated, as scientists have not yet properly tried it out on any island populations. They have used computer simulations to test their hypothesis, finding that in the simulation that after adding 256 mice with the altered gene into the population, the island population of this mouse would go extinct within 25 years. Scientists have still only tested the changing of the t-haplotype within these mice in labs, and have not yet tested the use of CRISPR to effectively damage genes needed for fertility in the house mice. More testing must be done to effectively ensure that this method of eliminating the species is effective, and so we might have to wait some years to begin the overall mission. Overall, scientists are hoping to find a way to eliminate populations of invasive species such as the house mouse in timelines smaller than 25 years, and many are looking to the future of CRISPR technology as the true way to achieve this goal.
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