Good for the ecosystem
This sounds simpler than it is. A major scientific breakthrough is needed for the project to succeed, but scientists are confident. Principal investigator Professor Andrew Pask of the Institute of University of Melbourne.
To what extent is this possible? Anyway, it doesn’t seem impossible. Scientist Stephen van der Meije of Naturalis says: Scientias. Van der Mije sees value in the multi-million dollar research project. “It’s partly a very enjoyable experience.” It would be impressive if humans were able to bring back extinct species. But this is not all that makes sense to bring the Tasmanian tiger back to life. “In this case, if successfully reintroduced, it could have good effects on the original ecosystem. The biology is still somewhat intact. The question, however, is how ‘real’ the new marsupial wolves are,” says van der Meije. . After all, DNA from existing species is used, so it remains to be seen to what extent new animals are copies of extinct species.
But if we succeed in bringing the marsupial wolf back, the path is also open for the reintroduction of other species, van der Meege believes. This should be possible in theory. Although it’s probably a little easier with one species than it is with the other.”
How did the opossum die?
The Tasmanian tiger’s population declined rapidly when humans arrived in Australia tens of thousands of years ago, and its population declined further when the dingo, a wild dog, appeared. In the end, the marsupial was able to move freely only in Tasmania. There, hunting put an end to the species in the 1930s. The last Tasmanian tiger died in captivity at Hobart Zoo in 1936.
If scientists succeed in bringing the animal back to life, it will be unique in history. The idea is not new, though. As early as 1999, the Australian Museum began the animal cloning project, and since then several attempts have been made to reconstruct the DNA of the Tasmanian tiger from existing specimens. The current project is a collaboration between the University of Melbourne in Australia and Colossal Corporation in Texas. This company, which has advanced well with its well-known CRISPR technology, made headlines last year with plans to bring woolly mammoths back to life.
Professor Paske said: “We can now take major steps to conserve Australia’s endangered marsupials and meet the challenge of restoring extinct animals.” Many of these challenges can be overcome by the army of scientists who are simultaneously working on the project and conducting experiments to speed up discoveries. With the US partnership, we now have what it takes to make that happen.”
Professor Pask explains that the so-called TIGGR laboratory in Melbourne is focused on reproductive technology designed for Australian marsupials, such as IVF and surrogacy. Meanwhile, Colossal is performing gene editing using CRISPR to reproduce the DNA of the Tasmanian tiger.
Colossal’s knowledge and expertise in CRISPR technology is combined with TIGGR’s work to map the marsupial genome and identify marsupials with the same DNA. In reproductive technology, the TIGRR laboratory is close to producing the first embryos created in the laboratory from marsupial sperm and Australian eggs. “We try to grow marsupials in a test tube from conception to birth without a surrogate mother, which is possible given the short lifespan and small size of the marsupials,” Paske explains.
So important steps are being taken to restore the extinct Tasmanian tiger. The question is whether this will really be possible in ten years’ time, but it’s certainly an exciting experience.
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