Gene from extinct Tasmanian tiger works in a mouse

May 20th, 2008 - 2:12 pm ICT by admin  


Sydney, May 20 (IANS) A gene extracted from the extinct Tasmanian tiger and inserted into a mouse - two widely disparate species - has, for the first time, been observed to be functional. The last known Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in the Hobart Zoo in 1936. This enigmatic marsupial carnivore was hunted to extinction in the wild in the early 1900s.

“This is the first time that DNA from an extinct species has been used to induce a functional response in another living organism,” said Andrew Pask of the University of Melbourne, who led the study.

“As more and more species of animals become extinct, we are continuing to lose critical knowledge of gene function and their potential.”

“Until now we have only been able to examine gene sequences from extinct animals. This research was developed to go one step further to examine extinct gene function in a whole organism,” he said.

The gene in question thylacine Col2a1 has a similar function in developing cartilage and bone development as the Col2a1 gene does in the mouse.

“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,” said Richard Behringer, of the University of Texas, who is co-author of the study.

The research team isolated DNA from 100-year-old ethanol fixed specimens. After authenticating this DNA as truly thylacine, it was inserted into mouse embryos and its function examined.

The thylacine DNA was resurrected, showing a function in the developing mouse cartilage, which will later form the bone.

“At a time when extinction rates are increasing at an alarming rate, especially of mammals, this research discovery is critical,” said Marilyn Renfree of University of Melbourne and a co-author.

The findings of the study have been published in PLoS ONE this week.

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