Thousands of genetically modified mice could be released on Nantucket by MIT scientists

Thousands of genetically modified mice could be released on Nantucket through an MIT lab for a project known as Mice Against Ticks.

The project hopes to prevent tick-borne diseases, the research says. White-footed mice are responsible for infecting many ticks in eastern North America. Scientists hope that if fewer mice carry Lyme, fewer tickets will be infected and infect fewer humans.

“The introduction of antibody-encoding resistance alleles into the local mouse population is expected to disrupt the disease transmission cycle for decades,” the research reads.

Lyme disease in the United States has nearly doubled since 1991, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Maine and Vermont saw the largest increases, followed by New Hampshire, the EPA said.

“With so many people suffering from Lyme every day, which is a terrible disease, we urgently need a solution,” Joanna Buchthal, research director of the MIT Media Lab’s Mice Against Ticks project, told the Boston Globe. . “It offers a real, albeit revolutionary, way to tackle the problem.”

An MIT professor first pitched the idea to the Nantucket Board of Health in 2016.

At the time, Kevin Esvelt, an assistant professor at the MIT Media Lab, said more than 100,000 mice could be needed for the operation, with groups of 20,000 to 40,000 being released every two and a half months, reported. StatNews.

He was aiming for the mice to be released in 2023, the outlet reported.

But before releasing the mice, field trials will be conducted on several small, largely uninhabited private islands in the region, the Globe reported. And owners must confirm their participation.

“If at any time the community says no, we’re not interested,” Esvelt said, according to the newspaper. “Then we leave.”

And not everyone is for the idea.

“My worst fear is that we make a change that affects a whole chain of reactions in this environment,” Danika Conners, herbalist and voice critic for Mice Against Ticks, told CNN in 2018. “No matter how hard they test this , we don’t know how it will affect the environment in five years, in 10 years, in 15 years, in 20 years.

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