A joint group of UC San Diego researchers have developed technology to control which genes are passed to subsequent generations among mice, the university announced Wednesday.
The research team, led by assistant professor Kimberly Cooper, focused on an engineered DNA element in the gene that controls fur color in mice. When the element disrupted the gene copying process, the mice’s fur turned black rather than white.
The element also copied to both chromosomes when it was only present on one at the beginning of the project. According to the study, up to 86 percent of the mice inherited the element from the female parent rather than the expected 50 percent. The researchers’ study appears in Wednesday’s issue of the journal Nature.
“Our motivation was to develop this as a tool for laboratory researchers to control the inheritance of multiple genes in mice,” Cooper said. “With further development, we think it will be possible to make animal models of complex human genetic diseases, like arthritis and cancer, that are not currently possible.”
Most recent studies of similar genetic inheritance editing have been done on insects due to their short lifespans. According to UCSD, it’s significantly harder with mammals due to the lengthy amount of time between generations. The gene editing approach also only worked on female mice while they produced eggs, but had little to no effect on sperm production in male mice.
According to UCSD professor and study coauthor Ethan Bier, future research using the gene editing method could enable researchers to positively affect biodiversity in ecosystems with large populations of one or multiple invasive species, such as mice or other rodents. The research team plans to continue their work, focusing on expanding the gene editing technology to multiple traits.
“With additional refinements, it should be possible to develop gene- drive technologies to either modify or possibly reduce mammalian populations that are vectors for disease or cause damage to indigenous species,” Bier said.
–City News Service
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