May 16, 2022

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Science, decoding the genomes of extinct species: the first step toward cloning

(Image from Wikipedia)

is called Ratus McCleary, is a rodent of the family Muridae that lived in historical times on Christmas Island, became extinct about 119 years ago, and its genome has been almost completely reconstructed. ScholarsUniversity of Copenhagenwho published an article on Current Biology Journal To publicize the results of their work. Since it became a popular concept in the 1990s, reviving extinct groups has been targeting large animals, such as mammoths or dinosaurs, but the research team preferred to assess the possibility of resurrecting a rodent that may have become extinct due to disease and infection spread thanks to European methods. Experts explain that Rattus macleari lived on Christmas Island, politically belonged to Australia and was located in the Indian Ocean south of Indonesia.
Led authors Tom Gilbert, they were able to obtain almost the entire genome of the rodent and found that it shares about 95 percent of its genome with a living species, Rattus norvegicus, known as the gray rat. “Theoretically, says Gilbert, we could use the CRISPR gene-editing tool to alter the DNA of living species and make it similar to that of Rattus macleari, bringing extinct animals back to life more than 100 years ago. However, this possibility raises a series of ethical questions.” . “It is important to specify – adds the author – that on the basis of current knowledge it is virtually impossible to obtain all the information needed to create a model that is completely identical to an extinct species. It is always about hybrids. Notably, in our study, we failed to recover some key genes related to smell. This means That if we could recreate a specimen of a Christmas Island mouse, it wouldn’t be able to process odors the same way as its ancestors.” Even if the replica was never perfect, scientists assert that, in theory to recreate an extinct species, it would be enough to modify the DNA of the closest living animal. For an ecologically functional mammoth, for example, it might be enough to alter an elephant’s DNA to increase the presence of hair and make it able to withstand the coldest temperatures. “Before trying to bring extinct animals back to Earth – concludes Gilbert – we plan to try to modify genes in two species. We are very excited about the research in the future, but it is a process that needs to be thought and thought through. I think it’s a great technology, but one wonders if It’s better to invest the money to try to keep the currently endangered species alive.”

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