If anyone thought that the movie Jurassic Park could become a reality, this could be the first step: a group of scientists recovered RNA from an extinct species, the Tasmanian tiger, for the first time.
This step increases hope for the revival of animals that were thought to disappear forever, researchers from Stockholm University told AFP.
“RNA has never been extracted and sequenced from an extinct species before,” said Love Dalen, a professor of evolutionary genomics at Stockholm University who led the project.
Daniela Kalthoff, curator of the mammal collection at the Natural History Museum in Stockholm, examines a dried specimen of a Tasmanian tiger on September 26, 2023.
RNA is a molecule used to transmit information from the genome to the rest of the cell about what to do.
“The ability to recover RNA from extinct species is a small step toward the possibility of resurrecting extinct species in the future,” Dalen said.
The researcher and his team were able to sequence RNA molecules from a 130-year-old Tasmanian tiger specimen preserved at room temperature in the Swedish Natural History Museum.
With this they were able to reconstruct the RNA of the skin and skeletal muscle.
“If you resurrect a dead animal, you need to know where the genes are and what they do, and which tissues they regulate,” Dalen said, explaining the need to identify DNA and RNA.
Scientists have for the first time recovered RNA from an extinct species, the Tasmanian tiger, raising hopes for the resurrection of animals once thought to be lost forever.
The last known living Tasmanian tiger or thylacine, a carnivorous marsupial, died in captivity in 1936 at the Beaumaris Zoo in Tasmania.
After the European colonization of Australia, the animal was declared a pest and in 1888 a reward was offered for each adult animal killed.
Scientists have focused their efforts on exterminating the Tasmanian tiger, as its natural habitat in Tasmania is largely preserved.
Reviving the tiger, “exciting idea”
Daniela Kalthoff, curator of the Natural History Museum’s mammal collection, said the idea of possibly reviving the Tasmanian tiger is an “exciting idea.”
“It’s an amazing animal and I want to see it alive again,” he said, showing the black and brown feathers the researchers used in their study.
Their findings also have implications for the study of pandemic RNA viruses.
Researchers have been able to reconstruct RNA from the skin and skeletal muscle of the Tasmanian tiger, which has been extinct for decades.
“Many of the pandemics that happened in the past were caused by RNA viruses, most recently the coronavirus, but also … the Spanish flu,” Dalen explained.
“In fact, we can look for these viruses in the remains of wild animals stored in dry museum collections. That will help us understand the nature of pandemics and where they come from,” he said.
The study opens the door to using museum collections in this new way.
“There are millions and millions of dried skins and dried tissues of insects, mammals and birds, etc., in museum collections all over the world, and now one can get the RNA from all the specimens,” Dalen said.
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