Mouse’s Vineyard

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Martha’s Vineyard has a Lyme disease problem. Now a scientist is coming to town with a possible fix: genetically engineered mice.

An island associated with summer rest and relaxation is gaining a reputation for something else: Lyme disease. Martha’s Vineyard has one of the highest rates of Lyme in the country. Now MIT geneticist Kevin Esvelt is coming to the island with a potential long-term fix. The catch: It involves releasing up to a few hundred thousand genetically modified mice onto the island. Are Vineyarders ready?

Kevin Esvelt makes the case for engineered mice, at a public meeting at a Vineyard public library. (Photo: Annie Minoff)

Kevin Esvelt takes questions from the Martha’s Vineyard audience. (He’s joined by Dr. Michael Jacobs and Dr. Sam Telford. (Photo: Annie Minoff)

Bob, Cheryl, and Spice (the lucky dog who gets a Lyme vaccine). (Photo: Annie Minoff)

No lack of tick-repelling options at a Martha’s Vineyard general store. (Photo: Annie Minoff)

(Original art by Claire Merchlinsky)

GUESTS

Kevin Esvelt, Assistant Professor, MIT Media Lab

FOOTNOTES

    Read Kevin Esvelt’s original paper describing the gene drive mechanism in eLife. Less technical descriptions available here via Scientific American, and here via Esvelt’s Sculpting Evolution Group. Watch Kevin’s July 20, 2016 presentation on Martha’s Vineyard (Unfortunately there is no direct link. Search “7.20.16” to find the video, titled “Preventing Tick-Borne Disease.”) Listen to Kevin Esvelt talk about gene drive on Science Friday. Read about Oxitec’s proposed mosquito trial in Key West, and watch the public meeting excerpted in this episode. Learn more about Kevin’s lab, the Sculpting Evolution Group. Looking for more information about Lyme disease? Here are resources from the CDC.

CREDITS

This episode of Undiscovered was reported and produced by Annie Minoff and Elah Feder. Editing by Christopher Intagliata. Fact-checking help by Michelle Harris. Original music by Daniel Peterschmidt. Our theme music is by I am Robot and Proud. Art for this episode by Claire Merchlinsky. Thanks to Science Friday’s Danielle Dana, Christian Skotte, Brandon Echter, and Rachel Bouton.

Special thanks to Joanna Buchthal, Bob Rosenbaum, Dick Johnson, and Sam Telford.

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