Arresting Evolution

Trends Genet. 2017 Dec;33(12):910-920. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2017.09.008. Epub 2017 Oct 10.


Evolution in the form of selective breeding has long been harnessed as a useful tool by humans. However, rapid evolution can also be a danger to our health and a stumbling block for biotechnology. Unwanted evolution can underlie the emergence of drug and pesticide resistance, cancer, and weeds. It makes live vaccines and engineered cells inherently unreliable and unpredictable, and therefore potentially unsafe. Yet, there are strategies that have been and can possibly be used to stop or slow many types of evolution. We review and classify existing population genetics-inspired methods for arresting evolution. Then, we discuss how genome editing techniques enable a radically new set of approaches to limit evolution.

Keywords: drug resistance; evolution proof; gene drive; genome engineering; refuge crop; synthetic biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Biotechnology / methods
  • Breeding / methods
  • Crops, Agricultural / genetics
  • Gene Editing / methods
  • Genetic Engineering / adverse effects
  • Genetic Engineering / methods
  • Humans