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Genes in sexually reproducing organisms normally have, on average, a 50% chance of being inherited, but some genes have a higher chance of being inherited. These genes can increase in relative frequency in a population even if they reduce the odds that each organism will reproduce. Aided by technological advances, scientists are investigating how populations might be altered by adding, disrupting, or editing genes or suppressed by propagating traits that reduce reproductive capacity (1, 2). Potential beneficial uses of such “gene drives” include reprogramming mosquito genomes to eliminate malaria, reversing the development of pesticide and herbicide resistance, and locally eradicating invasive species. However, drives may present environmental and security challenges as well as benefits.
↵* Principal contributors.