Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Scientists want to genetically ‘revive’ the extinct Tasmanian tiger

A group of scientists wants to “revive” in 10 years through genetic engineering the thylacine or Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cyanocephalus), the only predatory marsupial in Australia that went extinct in 1936, reported one of those responsible for the project .

Professor Andrew Pask from the University of Melbourne explained that the project involved extracting cells from a fat-tailed Dunart (Sminthopsis crassicudata), a mouse-like marsupial, to transform them into cells that are similar to those of the Tasmanian tiger. .

The scientists intend to take the living cells of Dunnart, believed to be the closest living relative of the Tasmanian tiger, and compare them with those of extinct animals to determine their differences.

Pask, head of the Thylacine Integrated Genetic Restoration Research Laboratory (TIGRR), told Australian public broadcaster ABC today that this would allow him to “edit all the DNA of this animal to make a thylacine.”

“At the end of the process you essentially have a thylacine cell, but you can do a kind of IVF cloning (in vitro fertilization) to grow a living organism”, explained the TIGRR specialist, who has already used the tiger. Complete genome has been developed. Tasmanian.

embryo of the extinct carnivore

The project, which hopes to “revive” the Tasmanian tiger in about ten years, also considers growing an embryo of this extinct carnivorous marsupial, either inside a test tube or as a surrogate womb. By using a thick tailed Dunart.

“At birth, fat-tailed thylacines and Dunarts are not much larger than a grain of rice, so even an animal as small as a mouse can give birth to a thylacine,” Pask told ABC.

he lives naturally

Led by Pask, collaborating on the project with American genetic engineering company Colossal Biosciences, the lab scientists intend to bring the Tasmanian tiger back to its natural habitat, where they hope it will retain its normal predatory habits.

The thylacine, a marsupial with a back reminiscent of a tiger, came to inhabit mainland Australia and the island of New Guinea. However, it disappeared from those places, with the exception of the island of Tasmania, about 3,000 years ago due to climate change.

When Europeans arrived in Oceania in the 18th century, its population was concentrated on the island of Tasmania, and its extinction was accelerated by an intensive hunting expedition between 1830 and 1909, encouraged by rewards to eliminate this predator. who ate livestock. ,

The Tasmanian tiger became extinct 81 years ago when the last specimen died at the Hobart Zoo in 1936, although it was officially declared extinct in the 1980s.

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