MIT evolutionary biologist Kevin Esvelt wants to let thousands of genetically engineered white-footed mice loose on Nantucket Island in hopes of breaking the cycle of Lyme (borrelia) infection.
“[The GE technique involves] taking immune cells from an exposed mouse that has protective antibodies and moving the genes encoding those antibodies into the second mouse.
“If we insert the antibody-encoding genes into the genomes of mouse reproductive cells, they will pass immunity on to their offspring. Our plan is to vaccinate many mice against Lyme or tick saliva, identify the most protective antibodies, then encode them all into the reproductive cells of other mice. In this way, we can take the total immune capacity of many different vaccinated mice and give it all to future mouse generations.”
Esvelt explains exactly how this is done:
“We will insert several copies of each protective antibody at neutral sites in the mouse genome using CRISPR, a genome editing tool that lets us precisely edit just about any DNA sequence in any organism. The resulting mice will be engineered to be immune (to either Lyme or tick bites or both), but will be 100 percent mouse with respect to their DNA. Any of their offspring that inherits a copy will be similarly protected, so adding multiple copies means that each mouse counts for several when it comes to protecting future generations.”
The project would take tens or hundreds of thousands of GE mice to be released over a period of years in a small area. The only way it would work in large areas is if they used foreign non-mouse DNA.
Anyone feel like they are in a bad Syfy flick yet? And I have a feeling that “foreign non-mouse DNA” sounds much nicer than it is.
Questioning the practice, University of British Columbia infectious disease expert Jan Hajek, states:
“I wonder how much the scientific interest of the researcher to be innovative and advance our knowledge and ability to manipulate mouse genetics on both an individual and population level is driving this research and how much is the desire to reduce the impact of Lyme disease. It is an important question to ask — especially if public funds and hundreds of thousands of mice are to be used.I am not against bioengineering. I acknowledge the value of innovation and advancing basic science knowledge. However, I also recognize that both Lyme disease and animal welfare are pressing and important concerns.”
Hajek doesn’t support the project at this point and states:
“We have ways to tackle Lyme disease we are not using. We make excuses for needing more animal experimentation and research for the sake of human health — when we do not even use the means already available to us.”
Hajek says distributing vaccine-laden bait to mice has already been shown to reduce the rates of B. burgdorferi infection in ticks.
Why do I get the distinct feeling that what is driving all of this is money with enormous projects involving tons of manufacturing, animals, insects, https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2015/12/28/frankinbugs/, vaccines, https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2016/03/08/fixation-on-zikapolio/ and patents?
I guess going through hell on steroids for over ten years and coughing up about $150K for MSIDS treatment (multi systemic infectious disease syndrome or Lyme with friends), for my husband and I has turned me into a skeptic.
I continue to be baffled by the lack of research on things that will help patients today such as better testing and diagnostics, better treatments, insurance coverage, and practical help on deterring ticks from our yards and bodies.
Could someone please suggest something that doesn’t have to destroy the immune system and the ecosystem?