A powerful new technology holds the promise of rapidly altering genes to make malaria-proof mosquitoes, eliminate their Zika-carrying cousins or wipe out an invasive species. But advisers to the government say these “gene drives” aren’t ready to let loose in the wild just yet.
Normally, genes have a 50-50 chance of being inherited. Gene drives allow scientists to genetically modify an organism and then ensure it spreads that new trait to virtually all its offspring — quickly impacting entire populations.
That could improve public health, and already one lab has hatched some mosquitoes incapable of spreading malaria, for example.
But Wednesday’s report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says lots more research is needed to learn to safely use a technology that could affect entire habitats.