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SUPER RODENTS Genetically mutated rats to be released in London to solve pest epidemic

Monday 06/08/2018

The super rodents could even 'eliminate' the UK's rat population by spreading infertility

A NEW breed of super rat could dramatically reduce the rising rodent population in the UK, it has emerged. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh plan to create genetically mutated rodents to tackle the pest problem by spreading infertility genes through their peers using a "humane" DNA editing method.

Researchers in Edinburgh are exploring a project to create a breed of super rats that could dramatically reduce the UK's rodent population.

Some local authorities have reported a 10 per cent increase in rodent numbers since last year, with London councils receiving 100 complaints about rats and mice every day.
The animals are known for carrying diseases that can be dangerous to humans and are becoming increasingly resistant to poison.

Professor Bruce Whitelaw, of the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, where Dolly the Sheep was created, said the Crispr technique could have dramatic effects if deployed.
“Crispr is perhaps the most exciting tool that has ever hit biology, and it is a fantastic tool for us to pull apart the function of genes and how the animal or plant functions,” said Prof Bruce in The Telegraph.

“For the first time we have the makings of technology that could reduce or eliminate a pest population in a humane and species-specific manner. “It’s time to explore what this technology can do.” Crispr involves an x-shredder inserted into the DNA of male rats, destroying the x chromosomes in their sperm. The natural process uses bacteria to fight off viruses by snipping away at the rats’ DNA.

By passing on only the y chromosome they would never have female offspring, resulting in increasingly few females – and therefore a sharp population decline.

There are thought to be more than 10 million rats living in Britain, while pest control is estimated to cost the UK around £1.2 billion each year. But researchers said the animals could potentially “escape” the target population and “affect extraneous ecosystems”.

Doctoral student Gus McFarlane of the Roslin Institute, who will head up the project, warned Crispr was an “emerging technology” with “risks involved” that they were trying to understand. “One of the biggest risks that we’re worried about is it if it were to be deployed, we target an animal and it spreads to a non-targeted individual.

“So you target a rat in New Zealand and it makes its way to Asia where it could have unforeseen ecological consequences. But there are mitigation strategies that we could implement if this were to occur.”

With courtesy of thesun.co.uk.

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