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Genetically modified squirrels? What's the worst that could happen?


Researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s world-renowned Roslin Institute say it is possible to cull numbers of the mammals by editing their DNA to ensure that all future females are born infertile.

The institute, famous for creating Dolly the Sheep, the world’s first mammal cloned from an adult cell, hoped to create gene-edited male squirrels that can be released into the wild.

The mammals would be altered to contain a so-called ‘gene drive’ designed to spread throughout the population, and render all females to inherit it sterile.

Males, however, would be unaffected, so as to allow them to keep spreading the new genetic code, and ultimately hastening the grey’s demise.

The initiative is supported by some as a humane means of stopping the spread of the invasive species and protected the red squirrel, which is native to the UK, but survives only in isolated strongholds, with the vast majority found in parts of Scotland.


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