Nearly 40 percent of Nantucket’s population has been impacted by tick-borne disease. A project directed by appointees of the Board of Health aims to lastingly immunize the island’s white-footed mice, which are responsible for infecting most ticks, in order to prevent Nantucket’s citizens from becoming infected by Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
The community-guided effort aims to identify existing mouse genes conferring resistance to Lyme disease or to tick saliva, edit the genome to combine these forms of immunity so that they can be passed down to future generations of mice, then release thousands of immune mice on a mostly-uninhabited island to observe the effects over years. An independent safety monitoring board would evaluate the results and report to the local community, who will decide whether to release the mice on Nantucket.
The Steering Committee and scientific team are inviting the residents of Nantucket to their own opinions, questions, and concerns about this project. What, if anything, needs to be tested or re-designed for the residents to be comfortable with eventually releasing engineered disease-resistant mice on Nantucket? Local concerns, criticism, and environmental knowledge can help ensure that the project is as safe and effective as possible.
On Thursday, August 17 at 6pm in the Public Safety Building, Professor Kevin Esvelt of the MIT Media Lab will describe the project and open the floor to questions. Nantucket residents are invited to join and contribute their thoughts, questions, and concerns to the discussion!