Scientists are creating ‘transgender’ mice for pest control. Here’s how it works

Scientists have found a new way of pest control

Featured photo credit: Pixabay

‘Oh my god! There’s a mouse in the kitchen!’

While we adore most little creatures, pests usually do not belong to the category of adoration. Lately, a research study has found a new way of eradicating these nasty little things.

So what are the transgender mice?

Scientists are creating transgender mice by deleting the Y chromosome in their genome. The Y chromosome is crucial for in determining the sex of an organism. It contains a part of the genetic code called the Sry gene that makes an organism male. Through the use of CRISPR gene editing technology, scientists are able to insert something called an endonuclease, which specifically targets the Y chromosome and shreds them, turning male mice into female mice at the embryo stage.

So how can this keep the population in check?

Scientists are able to make the shredding of Y chromosomes inheritable, meaning that mice with the altered genes will pass it on to the next generation. This ensures that the altered gene will eventually spread out to the most of the population, all carrying this deadly mutation.

By eliminating the Y chromosomes in the population, there will be fewer males in the population every generation. Eventually, there will be so few or even no male mice left, the population will no longer be able to replenish its numbers, and eventually reduced to zero.

Now that we have the theory, can this actually work in the real world? This could be a few potential challenges.

What if the population are divided into sub-groups?

What if the mice population are divided into many smaller populations that cannot reach each other? That will certainly become an issue. Since the subpopulation cannot be reached, they also will not be affected. This means that eventually, the subpopulation with the altered gene with die off and will not have any effect.

What if resistance develops by natural selection?

Although unlikely, it is possible that evolution kicks in. A spontaneous mutation can still occur can render the altered gene useless. This will result in the male population to regrow and re-balance the sex ratios of the population.

So is the doom for those pesky little creatures? Perhaps not. But, this technology has shown promising potential, especially if it is combined with traditional pest control methods. Meanwhile, we might just have to call a pest control service or use rat poison to deal with our household mice problems.

This study was published in the eLife research magazine.