Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Thylacine gene resurrected in mice

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-05-20

There’s been a breakthrough in "Jurassic Park" technology, not for dinosaurs, but for the thylacine (Stripypseudocanis taswegicus).

Published in PLoS One doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002240 (2008-05-21) and reported in Nature doi:10.1038/news.2008.841 (2008-05-19) a Texas/Melbourne team has resurrected a thylacine gene for cartilage and bone development, put it into mouse embryos (replacing the equivalent mouse gene), and seen "normal" activity specific to chondrocytes (cartilage cells).

This is the first time that genes from an extinct species has been shown to work in vivo, although activity has previously been demonstrated in test tubes.

The genes were isolated from a specimen that, luckily, was preserved in alcohol, rather than formalin (which breaks down the DNA).

Pask and his colleagues used a portion of a gene called Col2a1 , which regulates the development of cartilage and bone.  They injected it into a mouse embryo in place of the mouse’s corresponding section of Col2a1.  The mouse embryos grew, complete with their exchanged genetic information, and proceeded to develop cartilage and bone as normal.&nbsp

– Pask AJ, Behringer RR, Renfree MB (2008) Resurrection of DNA Function In Vivo from an Extinct Genome. PLoS ONE 3(5): e2240.

Of course, century old ethanol-preserved DNA is in a lot better condition than frozen mammoth, or DNA in Jurassic bones and amber as depicted in the Jurassic Park movie, but it does raise interesting ethical questions regarding extinct anthropoids, at least in theory: if we can resurrect the thylacine (the ultimate aim of some Australian scientists), is there an obligation to resurrect another Tasmanian group wiped out a century ago: Truganini and her kin, or perhaps the Flores Hobbit?


  • My Bugs Bunny fandom got the better of me: the Tasmanian Tiger is correctly known as Thylacinus cynocephalus.

2 Responses to “Thylacine gene resurrected in mice”

  1. zombinol said

    Cool so if a genetic ancestor of sufficient antiquity is recreated, that individual could be the antecedence of us all.
    The lawyers would love that.

  2. Thanks for bringing this paper to my attention.

    Regarding your statement:
    “…is there an obligation to resurrect another Tasmanian group wiped out a century ago: Truganini and her kin …”

    My simple observation is that the Tasmanian Aboriginal genes are still all available just that they are much diluted especially by European origin genes. No need to extract these genes and splice them into laboratory mice!

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