Episode #5 | 12 November 2021
Large cages bridge the divide between testing in the lab and in the wild
Large cage experiments that emulate the real-world environment demonstrate viability of gene drive technology.
Gene drives have the potential to reduce malaria transmission by controlling mosquito reproduction. By targeting the doublesex gene of Anopheles mosquitoes, they can render female mosquitoes infertile and crash the entire population over time. But, for the most part, gene drive studies so far have been conducted in small laboratory cages, which aren’t representative of wild populations with complex feeding and reproductive behaviours. A new experiment changes this, however, by testing the technology in larger cages which emulates the real-world environment. Here, the gene drive spread rapidly through the experimental groups, resulting in complete population suppression within a year, demonstrating the viability of the technology. More broadly, this large cage approach offers a bridge between the lab and the field, getting the best of both experimental control and real-world population dynamics before being tested in nature, which is in the works to be done in the foreseeable future.