Scientists from the University of New South Wales are reporting that they have just successfully created a living embryo of an animal which has been extinct for three decades — a breakthrough which could eventually be used to revive other species previously wiped from existence.
Using non-living genetic material preserved from the gastric-brooding frog, extinct since the mid-1980s, researchers inserted DNA into the eggs of a donor frog of a similar species — a process not unlike the one famously used to clone Dolly the sheep. And, after several days, the embryo of a gastric-brooding frog sprung to life for the first time in 30 years.
UNSW researcher Mike Archer says that, at first, the egg seemed inactive. “But then, all of a sudden, one of the cells divided, and then it divided again, and again.”
“This is the first time this technique has been achieved for an extinct species,” conservation biologist Michael Mahony tells the Sydney Morning Herald.
Although the embryo ultimately failed to develop into a tadpole, scientists say that it is only a matter of time before that this process, called somatic nuclear cell transfer, is successful in bringing this or other species back into viable adulthood.
“We do expect to get this guy hopping again,” says Archer.
Until recently, the notion of resurrecting non-existant animals was realm ofscience fiction — but as cell transfer techniques improve, it could offer a ray of hope for the countless species inching closer to extinction every year, as well as those once thought lost to the ages.
Via the Sydney Morning Herald