Population control of feral animals is often difficult, as it can be dangerous for the animals, labour intensive and expensive. Therefore, a useful tool for control of animal populations would be a non-surgical method to induce sterility. Our laboratories utilize methods aimed at targeting brain cells in vivo with vehicles that deliver a payload of either inhibitory RNAs or genes intended to correct cellular dysfunction. A useful framework for design of a new approach will be the combination of these methods with the intended goal to produce a technique that can be used to non-invasively sterilize cats and dogs. For this approach to succeed, it has to meet several conditions: the target gene must be essential for fertility; the method must include a mechanism to effectively and specifically silence the gene of interest; the method of delivering the silencing agent must be minimally invasive, and finally, the silencing effect must be sustained for the lifespan of the target species, so that expansion of the population can be effectively prevented. In this article, we discuss our work to develop gene silencing technology to induce sterility; we will use examples of our previous studies demonstrating that this approach is viable. These studies include (i) the use of viral vectors able to disrupt reproductive cyclicity when delivered to the regions of the brain involved in the control of reproduction and (ii) experiments with viral vectors that are able to ameliorate neuronal disease when delivered systemically using a novel approach of gene therapy.
© 2012 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.