Cheating evolution: engineering gene drives to manipulate the fate of wild populations

Nat Rev Genet. 2016 Mar;17(3):146-59. doi: 10.1038/nrg.2015.34. Epub 2016 Feb 15.


Engineered gene drives - the process of stimulating the biased inheritance of specific genes - have the potential to enable the spread of desirable genes throughout wild populations or to suppress harmful species, and may be particularly useful for the control of vector-borne diseases such as malaria. Although several types of selfish genetic elements exist in nature, few have been successfully engineered in the laboratory thus far. With the discovery of RNA-guided CRISPR-Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats-CRISPR-associated 9) nucleases, which can be utilized to create, streamline and improve synthetic gene drives, this is rapidly changing. Here, we discuss the different types of engineered gene drives and their potential applications, as well as current policies regarding the safety and regulation of gene drives for the manipulation of wild populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / genetics*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Biotechnology
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats / genetics*
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Genetics, Population
  • Organisms, Genetically Modified
  • Population Dynamics
  • Synthetic Biology