The door to creating designer species blew open in March
when scientists announced the first successful demonstration
of genetically altered animals passing their tweaked DNA
automatically to their progeny.
Normally, any mutation has a 50-50 chance of being passed on
because half the genes come from mom, the other half from dad. But
biologists at the University of California, San Diego, found a way to
ensure a fruit fly offspring inherited a genetic splice from a parent 95
percent of the time, according to the paper in Science
The team used the CRISPR genetic engineering technique to ensure
that a mutation they inserted into one copy of the fly’s chromosome
spread automatically to the other copy, according to Valentino Gantz,
a co-author of the study. It’s a process he calls mutagenic chain
reaction, or MCR.
MCR could transform entire populations of sexually reproducing
species within months, making it a powerful new tool for research. The
technique could also be used to tinker with plant pests or mosquitoes so
they don’t spread lethal diseases, such as malaria.
[This article originally appeared in print as "Splice of Life."]