Melbourne has begun a program to restore the Tasmanian Tiger using old and new genes.
Australian genetic engineers are using advanced techniques in gene engineering to create an artificial living cell for a Tasmanian Tiger and to then grow extinct species from that tube.
A lab from the University of Melbourne is currently working on this project. It announced this week that they have partnered up with Colossal Biosciences, a Dallas-based genetics company. The Australian lab, known by the acronym TIGRR, needs American expertise and computational power to recreate the animal’s genome based on sequencing it did in previous years. Their gene data, which they claim is the most accurate available on an extinct animal’s genome so far, gives them great hope for success.
“A lot of the challenges with our efforts can be overcome by an army of scientists working on the same problems simultaneously, conducting and collaborating on the many experiments to accelerate discoveries,”Andrew Pask (the head of TIGRR) said this. “With this partnership, we will now have the army we need to make this happen.”
After the TIGRR team had presented their plans in March, the university received a grant that made the collaboration possible. Pask and his people want to use the genome of the fat-tailed dunnart, a small marsupial animal closely related to the thylacine – as the Tasmanian tiger is also called – as the base for the recreated genome. To create a very close replica of the DNA from the thylacine, it will have parts of other genes grafted on to it.
Because of its distinctive stripes down its back, the animal was called a “tiger”. However, its appearance was due to convergent evolutionary processes, making it the most powerful marsupial predator. The animal was exterminated in Tasmania in 20th-century Tasmanian by humans and other animals like the dingoes.
TIGRR will work to develop techniques for marsupial in-vitro pregnancy. This type of mammal is distinct for giving birth to tiny, barely viable babies, which spend weeks or months feeding and growing in a mother’s abdominal pouch before developing autonomy. Their gestation process is relatively simple, and scientists believe it can be artificially replicated.
Pask thinks that Colossal has given the project the boost it needs to make a live baby thylacine viable in about ten years.
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