Print 71 comment(s) - last by fflintstone.. on Feb 11 at 5:13 PM

The tasmanian tiger, Thylacinus cynocephalus, seen here at the Washington DC zoo in 1902, has been extinct since 1936.  (Source: Wikipedia)

The mouse embryo, seen here, is now part thylacine -- it contains thylacine DNA which will effect its muscle and cartilage growth.  (Source: Andrew Pask and Richard Behringer)

Russian researcher Sergei Zimov is building a vast 160 sq km "Pleistocene Park" in northeastern Siberia near Alaska. He hopes to one day populate it with wooly mammoths and sabertooth tigers.  (Source: BBC News)
By injecting DNA sequenced from an extinct species into a mouse embryo, scientist have delivered a proof-of-concept, which could one day lead to full cloning of long-extinct species

Cloning extinct species has been a long standing dream of mankind.  Well, long standing since the 90s at least, when the movie Jurassic Park stole the imagination of audiences worldwide with a fictitious story in which scientists use DNA extracted from long dead dinosaurs to resurrect the beast through cloning (with disastrous results).  Since the movie, cloning science has advanced at a steady pace, and there has been increasing interest within the scientific community in cloning extinct creatures.

While it seems unlikely that dinosaur DNA pristine enough to produce a full genome map would ever be found, it would be reasonably easy to sequence other extinct creatures genomes such as the dodo, Neanderthals, wooly mammoths, and other more recent critters which researchers have recovered soft tissue samples (bone marrow, skin, etc) from.  However, such dreams were often scoffed at and remained the realm of pseudoscience.

They were derided -- until now.  In an exciting, successful new experiment, researchers at the University of Melbourne report that they have taken DNA from the extinct thylacine, commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger, and inserted it into a mouse embryo which continued to grow with the thylacine gene in place.  The process represented the first time DNA from an extinct creature was inserted into an embryo, effectively bringing "back to life" in part the extinct species.

Dr Andrew Pask, who led the research, says the experiment was the first time DNA from an extinct species has been successfully used "to induce a functional response in another living organism".  Professor Marilyn Renfree, a member of the team, states, "For those species that have already become extinct, our method shows that access to their genetic biodiversity may not be completely lost."

The findings of the team will be reported in the international science journal PLoS ONE this week. 

The Tasmanian tiger, whose scientific name is Thylacinus cynocephalus or thylacine for short, is an extinct marsupial from Australia that looked like a wolf.  The last surviving member of the species died in captivity at the Hobart Zoo in 1936.  The gene was extracted from tissue samples of flesh preserved in ethanol, which were donated by the Museum Victoria in Melbourne Australia.  The DNA was verified to be thylacine, and then was injected into the developing mouse embryo.

The gene injected was the thylacine Col2a1 gene, which controls cartilage and bone growth.  The mouse embryo was selected, partially because mice have a similar gene, also labeled Col2a1.

Dean of Science at the University of New South Wales, Mike Archer, is leading a project that aims to fully clone extinct animals, but he warns that success remains far off. He commented on the developments, stating, "The next question then is, well what if you did that with the whole of the DNA of the thylacine?  Could you in fact bring back a thylacine? Technically I think this is pretty difficult at the moment but on the other hand this is one very significant step in that direction and I'm delighted."

Despite the steep challenge, Professor Archer isn't giving up.  He states, "I'm personally convinced this is going to happen. We are working on a number of projects like this. I've got another group working on another extinct Australian animal and we think this is highly probable."

Aside from possibly leading to clones of extinct animals, the breakthrough also may yield scientific gains in biology and medicine.  Professor Richard Behringer, Deputy Head of the Department of Molecular Genetics, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, at the University of Texas, says, "This research has enormous potential for many applications including the development of new biomedicines and gaining a better understanding of the biology of extinct animals."

Several groups are working to make real life Jurassic Park-style exhibits with cloned animals.  Some like a team in Japan are focusing on finding frozen gametes from ice age animals, while others are focusing on more traditional cloning

Perhaps most ambitious is the Pleistocene Park currently being built in northeast Siberia by Sergei Zimov.  Zimov introduced a grassland ecosystem along with 100 large mammals including
reindeer, horses and moose.  He plans on eventually introducing to the park wooly mammoths, extinct saber tooth tigers and prehistoric bears; all cloned of course.  On the possible threat of cloned tigers he states, "OK, so one or two people will be killed, like in India, but far more will die of alcohol in this place than from tigers."

While Zimov and others have thus far not revived any extinct species, advances in cloning may one day make their dreams a reality.  And with the new Australian breakthrough, that day seems to have come much closer.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By geddarkstorm on 5/20/2008 2:46:13 PM , Rating: 3
Not only that, but they only injected a single gene, a homologue to a similar one in mice (which they knocked out for the experiment, obviously). This is a far cry from injecting a whole genome and using it to develop a representative animal. The mouse genome is still there and intact.

The only breakthrough here is that they can now see how the extinct animal's specific gene functioned relative to how the mouse gene functions in the context of the whole mouse genome.

By JasonMick on 5/20/2008 2:58:18 PM , Rating: 1

The definition of clone is to create a genetically identical copy of an organism.

1. Biology.
a. a cell, cell product, or organism that is genetically identical to the unit or individual from which it was derived.

This experiment succeeded, if accurately reported by the researchers, in creating a partial genetic copy of an extinct organism's DNA and implanting it into a living organism. Thus whether it has 1 gene or 1,000 genes it IS a partial clone of this extinct animal by the definition of the word.

While obviously it would be incredibly more complex to fully clone an extinct animal (a human has 20k-25k genes), you're missing the big picture here, that this is a significant step, indeed, the first real step towards this.

You gotta take little steps to make big ones.

By jonmcc33 on 5/20/2008 3:10:22 PM , Rating: 2
That is true. This would be great to bring species back from the dead and very beneficial in preventing current endangered species from becoming extinct.

I personally favor human cloning to be honest. Inhumane as it might be at first I wouldn't mind living another lifetime. Life is too short. Some of the world's greatest people have had their lives brought to an early end.

By daniyarm on 5/20/2008 4:49:39 PM , Rating: 2
Except for you wouldn't remember any of your first life. Even though it would be you genetically, the brain would be totally different with different experiences and memories. Now if they could transplant all the organs from the clone into your body, that would be awesome. Like in that movie The Island.

By JonnyDough on 5/20/2008 11:40:07 PM , Rating: 2
What is more likely to happen is that our conciousness will be transfered to a data bank, where it will then be able to process thoughts and interact with other stored personalities in a collective. However, the original being (us) will still die. It's like a program that develops, and then is stored, being able to change with time. Like the Matrix the Matrix. At any rate, transference of thoughts to a magnetic/electrical/metallic computer are much more plausible at this point in our techonological advances than transference to a blank biological computer. I imagine that if we ever do "clone" ourselves and live on, we'll somehow lose conciousness during the transfer, as you would have to have live syncing between the old and the new. We'd also still likely store our memories to a non-biological computer first, and then transplant them again from there.

By Samus on 5/21/2008 2:24:39 AM , Rating: 5
If you just want to be resurrected when you die, it's too bad you're not a Cylon .

By jonmcc33 on 5/22/2008 7:06:30 AM , Rating: 2
Too bad that they cannot do brain transplants. I remember the video of the monkey they did that to. Give it time but that's why people are getting cryogenic freezing of their heads.

By mikefarinha on 5/20/2008 4:56:47 PM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't mind living another lifetime. Life is too short. Some of the world's greatest people have had their lives brought to an early end.

A person, even an intelligent person, is more than simply the sum of their genetic code.

Unless you know of a way to transfer your consciousness into your cloned self, you'll be stuck in your terminal body. And even if it were possible you'd face the ethical question of replacing one persons consciousness with another.

I don't have a problem with cloning animals but once you start messing with human DNA you begin to cheapen human life.

By The Jedi on 5/20/2008 8:22:44 PM , Rating: 2
Unless you know of a way to transfer your consciousness into your cloned self, you'll be stuck in your terminal body. And even if it were possible you'd face the ethical question of replacing one persons consciousness with another.

Haujobb did a weird song about that on their Polarity album. Track 4. They're ok overall if you can handle weird sci-fi electronica. They're German so sometimes the more abstract lyrics don't seem to come out right in English.

By ImSpartacus on 5/20/2008 3:16:45 PM , Rating: 5
Thus whether it has 1 gene or 1,000 genes it IS a partial clone of this extinct animal by the definition of the word.

That's akin to running 13 miles and saying "Well, I ran a partial marathon." Did you define up "Partial Clone" or "Clone?"

"Clone" is an all or nothing term. You either are a clone, or you aren't.

The organism in question is two organisms' DNA meshed together. That is not identical to any one organism I know.

This is a great step forward, but it is not a clone of an extinct animal.

By snownpaint on 5/20/2008 5:53:22 PM , Rating: 2
So can we clone Polar Bears using mice. No!?

But I want mini polar bears to keep in a small tank in my house. Watch them hunt the goldfish, the mini mice-seals, and drink from the bottle in the corner.

Oddly they used a Mammal in the clone of a marsupial. Wonder the effects of that? especially, when introducing more then one gene. Wonder if the DNA altered mouse would be able to reproduce viable offspring.

By MrPoletski on 5/21/2008 2:22:27 AM , Rating: 2
"So can we clone Polar Bears using mice. No!?"

Eeep, bursting mice.

By MrBlastman on 5/21/2008 10:51:39 AM , Rating: 2
I'm just waiting for someone to photoshop an "I'm in UR" picture...

One where there is an Embryo and it has a Cat in it poking its head out the top with a quote:

I'm in ur Embryo's... resurrectin ur DNA's!

By ImSpartacus on 5/21/2008 3:08:17 PM , Rating: 2
One different gene is hardly new for life in general. Organisms mutate all the time. Most mutations don't even affect you. They would have to cherry pick a gene that would do much of anything (which is obviously what occurred).

By 16nm on 5/20/2008 3:19:13 PM , Rating: 2
Hey Jason, do scientists have any theories regarding cloning extinct animals with JUST their DNA? I'm guessing they have some ideas on how to do it without the "somatic cell nuclear transfer" process.

By JasonMick on 5/20/2008 3:56:03 PM , Rating: 2
Hi 16nm,
A bit confused by your question, but I'll try to field it. Do you mean cloning without a donor cell/embryo? Such an approach would differ greatly from the current thought on how an extinct animal COULD some day be cloned.

The current thought would be to take a genetically and physiologically similar creature, ie for a wooly mammoth an elephant, take a zygote remove all the dna, implant surrogate DNA from the extinct animal, implant mitochondrial dna inside mitochondria, etc.

You do need some sort of base cell. However, eventually this cell might be able to created from scratch

but, that still wouldn't solve the problem of needing a womb at some point for the egg to at least partially develop in (amount of in womb-growth dependent on the Class of the species). Perhaps a synthetic womb could someday be invented, but there's no research that I know of on this.

However, even the basic method I first mentioned remains far away from actualization, and despite this breakthrough a fantasy of sorts. A big tricky spot would be replacing all the mitochondrial dna in the cell.

And the other really hard part is just getting the DNA. Only a few extinct species have had their genome fully sequenced.

And as far as dinosaurs, to quote a good story on cave bear genome sequencing, "Barring some fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of DNA decay, he says it is highly unlikely viable DNA will be recovered from 150 to 200 million year old Jurassic age samples."

Definitely a lot of research going on, but its hard to make partial clones with helpful tools ie. genetically similar surrogate mothers, let alone with some sort of purely synthetic cloning process (currently infeasible).

However, remember, if you know anything about science, you know you can never say never.

"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."

By 16nm on 5/20/2008 6:23:02 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, that's what I was asking about. It seems like a chicken-and-egg problem to me. A carrier, or womb, of the extinct species would seem to be needed but you can't have that until you've cloned the extinct animal. But, as you say, I guess if somekind of faux womb could be developed then this may be possible. This seems like the greatest complication to me given the complexity of the womb.

By tmouse on 5/21/2008 10:24:41 AM , Rating: 2
Its not that difficult in principle. Cross species surrogates have been done before, I think there has been horse/zebra and cross tiger subspecies (not totally sure). I know Tulane did a pigtail monkey surrogate giving birth to a rhesus monkey (they are thought to be several million years apart on the evolutionary tree)

By fflintstone on 2/11/2010 5:13:24 PM , Rating: 2
The chicken-and-egg question would seem to hint at how this can be done. If you think about it in terms of evolution and mutation, it is obvious that the egg came first -- at some point in time, a thing which was "NotAChicken" laid a mutated egg from which hatched a "Chicken".
For the resurrection process, you would presumably start with something genetically as close as possible to the target animal, then artificially mutate the eggs over a number of generations to arrive at the desired end result.

By DNAgent on 5/20/2008 4:18:52 PM , Rating: 5
The definition of clone is to create a genetically identical copy of an organism.

Maybe I missed something, but I don't think the article claims that an identical copy of an organism was created. The Col2a1 gene was cloned, not the Tasmanian tiger as a whole.

Honestly, this article blows the propensity of this achievement way out of proportion. A gene was cloned from one mammal into another...this has been done millions of times by flunkie graduate students around the world. The only significant detail is that one mammal is extinct.

The cloning of a gene into an animal of a distant phyla (from human into housefly for example) while maintaining functionality is a much more exciting accomplishment--which has also been performed countless times.

Dailytech should really keep away from such news, unless there are plans to recruit writers with enough experience in the biological sciences to distinguish milestones from monotony.

This article is blatant sensationalism.

By snownpaint on 5/20/2008 5:26:26 PM , Rating: 2
You should start working on that. Impress yourself as well as us..

By nismotigerwvu on 5/20/2008 4:52:45 PM , Rating: 2
But why make a chimera when all you have is one gene? You can make a cDNA, PCR it up and then tranfect it into some e.coli. This is just a PR fishing project. I've "cloned" far more than this (isolating mitochondrial ornithine transporters in mice, pigs and other animals I've been able to get sample tissues of...ect). This is NOT cloning news.

By snownpaint on 5/20/2008 6:00:47 PM , Rating: 2
"""By injecting DNA sequenced from an extinct species into a mouse embryo, scientist have delivered a proof-of-concept , which could one day lead to full cloning of long-extinct species"""

The Point That is Being Missed..
But you do what you do..

By nismotigerwvu on 5/20/2008 9:04:37 PM , Rating: 2
A chimera is not proof of concept and has been done before for years. Do you guys even know what a chimeric animal is? I ask this not to insult, but to get a better feel for whom I'm conversing with here. Proof of concept would be generating tissues, or perhaps organs of the animal in question. This is simply transfection.

By snownpaint on 5/21/2008 7:02:39 PM , Rating: 2
Yes I know.. I took biology and history in college (Etymology of the word).

Though I remember, a chimera is made of multiple zygotes; not one zygote and an infusion of genetically different DNA.

The other cases I can think of that did something like this is the bioluminescence rats, and the altering of immune markers on pigs for human organ harvesting. Both cases used non-extinct animals, this is the first case I have read about, using extinct animals. I'm sure they used the simple, tried and true, transfection to introduce the extinct animal's gene into the mice, but it is still a extinct animal. But if you can make a chimera, you can then find a distant cousin to "replace" the DNA inside the nucleus, allowing the outside RNA/DNA help with making a viable embryo. Maybe..

By odessit740 on 5/20/2008 5:58:27 PM , Rating: 2
Its still not cloning, they just used a gene from an extinct species. The guy posting before you is absolutely right. Its just a gene, not a clone.

But it is indeed a small step forward.

By snownpaint on 5/22/2008 9:45:18 AM , Rating: 2
Will Someone READ this instead of just posting.. SEE if YOU can find the word CLONING that directly relates to this experiment. Not the supposed parks and possibility cloning of extinct animals this experiment may lead to, But, The word CLONING directly related to this experiment.. You Can't..

By Strunf on 5/20/2008 6:16:43 PM , Rating: 2
Partial clone ?

Come on it's either a clone or it isn't a clone, if we are going now with partial this partial that, then we are all partial clones of our parents...

By tmouse on 5/21/2008 10:10:16 AM , Rating: 2
Ok here are the facts:

They did not clone anything in any way, shape or form.
They sequenced a very small fragment (264 base pairs) from an enhancer element from the proa1(II) collagen gene. They compared the sequence to known sequences in genbank and found it different enough from human and mouse sequences to be sure it was not an artifact. They made a reporter gene construct basically an enzyme that can provide a blue staining of the tissues it’s expressed in under the regulation of this enhancer element. They created a transgenic mouse with it and observed the "stain" was only where it was expected to be. It is really only a proof that the DNA was in good shape and that there was no PCR artifacts when they amplified it for sequencing. Who knows if other animals that have never been sequenced (either different species or even individuals) could have this sequence naturally. The gene was chosen because it is VERY highly conserved. Its stretching it a bit to even say they produced chimeric cells, definitely not cloning. I’ve made dozens of transgenic animals and I would not say they were Human/Mouse chimeras (although some would I guess) and No one I know of would say it’s a step towards cloning a human. Rather than a chimeric cell it’s really closer to a somatic cell hybrid (although that is the fusion of two genomes in one cell. I respect Richard Behringer, he is an important person in transgenics but this is really FAR more flash than substance.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
Related Articles
South Korean Firm Will Clone Your Pet
February 15, 2008, 4:39 PM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki