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Ia a real toad Solution in sight?
Published: 24 Aug 2016
It is spectacularly depressing to contemplate cane toads as an ongoing negative force in our environemnt. But new research capabilities suggest that a real solution might now be achievable.
The development of a technique for editing genes Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats called CRISPR-Cas9, pioneered in 2012 by molecular biochemist Jennifer Doudna at UC Berkeley has developed to the point where a technology known as a gene drive (references for further information are listed below) is now offering a range of strategies for dealing with the cane toad problem at a genetic level.
CSIRO has some of this capability and this leads to discussions relating to how this might deliver a final cane toad solution, perhaps by using a sterile male technique, but more safely by removing the elements that makes toads toxic to our native predators. CSIRO indicated this could be a short term project, less than 3 years. Potentially this could also lead to the removal of the toxins from toads in Australia all together, but targeting the enzyme will provide a good starting point and allow many of the issues with the technology and its on ground application to be resolved.
To look at the feasibility of this mechanism and to plan a trial is I believe vitally important.
There are many issues to be considered in this field, not the least of which are ethics considerations but also roll out models to solve the problem of getting the modified genetics into the wild population as quickly as possible. As with previous modelling around daughterless male technologies community group activity to assist can massively reduce the problems around implementation strategy and timelines to success.
Some background information on gene drive technology is at:-
This makes it more important than ever that we keep toads in check as much as possible in the Darwin area while we work for a real solution to toads to be applied.