Gene Drives acts as the genetic modification tool which helps in the accumulation of certain traits within the population

We have heard a lot of genes and chromosomes. But we have not heard about gene drives. In this article, we are going to get an overview of gene drives. Gene Drive is basically a genetic engineering technique that helps in the accumulation and propagation of a particular set of traits throughout the population. Gene drives basically increase the chances of certain traits to pass on to the next generations. Gene Drives arise through various mechanisms. Gene-editing techniques like CRISPR have enabled the researchers to construct gene drives. Gene drives actually are an effective method of modifying specific populations and entire species.

Gene Drives have basically three major components. It contains a gene that is to be transmitted, a Cas9 protein for cutting the DNA and CRISPR that act as a guide sequence for Cas9 protein. The genetic material that encodes for those three components gets embedded into organisms’ DNA in place of the normal gene. Gene Drives works against the laws of inheritance. In normal instance, there is a 50% chance of gene to pass from parent to offspring. Gene Drives basically converts this probability to 100%.

An individual carrying gene drive when mates with another individual carrying that don’t contain the required gene. The offspring resulting from such mating carry the gene of interest. When the sperm meets the egg CRISPR in the gene drive gets activated. It acts as a guide for cas9 protein and it cuts the normal copy of the gene and replaces it with the gene of interest.

When a gene is damaged inside the cell its repair machinery is triggered. The repair machinery restores the missing DNA, but it uses the unbroken chromosome, which is the one carrying the gene drive, as its template. So when the repair is finished, both chromosomes carry a copy of the gene drive. From that point on, two copies of the gene drive will be in every cell and the animal will pass the gene drive on to the next generation.

Thus the procedure proceeds. Each time the drive is passed on, CRISPR cuts the normal rendition of the quality, the cell repair mechanism comes into play and gene drive copy gets duplicated. In the next few generations, the gene gets fixed replacing the normal gene.

Researchers are trying to predict what the removal of an unwanted animal species may mean for the rest of the environment. Such as eradicating malaria caused by mosquitoes with the help of gene drive technology has shown to have minimal impact on the ecosystem. Removal of single specie has not shown to have an impact on the ecosystem.  It can also be used to eliminate invasive species like island rodents.  But eradicating rodents with the help of gene drive poses major potential risks for the ecosystem. The ecosystem would collapse without rodents.

Despite the fact that the idea of utilizing a quality drive to secure human wellbeing and reestablish the balance of the ecosystem is promising, research has to be conducted further on this.

By Ahsan Ali

A young motivated person, interested in research and bioenterpreneurship in Pakistan.