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    Overlook Mammoths – These Scientists Are Working To Resurrect the Extinct Christmas Island Rat By means of DNA Modifying

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    Dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years in the past, mammoths 4,000 years in the past, and the Christmas Island Rat 119 years in the past. Since changing into a well-liked idea within the Nineteen Nineties, de-extinction efforts have centered on grand animals with legendary stature, however in a paper printed March 9, 2022, within the journal Present Biologya group of paleogeneticists flip their consideration to Rattus macleariand their findings present insights into the restrictions of de-extinction throughout all species.

    De-extinction work is outlined by what’s unknown. When sequencing the genome of an extinct species, scientists face the problem of working with degraded Christmas Island Rat (Rattus macleari)

    Maclear’s rat (Rattus macleari) is an extinct large rat endemic to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. Credit: Joseph Smit, Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1887

    After the DNA has been sequenced as well as possible and the genome is matched up against the reference genome of the living species, the scientists identify the parts of the genomes that don’t match up and, in theory, would then use CRISPR technology to gene edit the DNA of the living species to match that of the extinct one. The brown-rat-to-Christmas-Island-rat scenario is a particularly good test case because the evolutionary divergence is similar to that of the elephant and the mammoth.

    Though the sequencing of the Christmas Island rat was mostly successful, a few key genes were missing. These genes were related to olfaction, meaning that a resurrected Christmas Island Rat would likely be unable to process smells in the way as it would have originally. “With current technology, it may be completely impossible to ever recover the full sequence, and therefore it is impossible to ever generate a perfect replica of the Christmas Island rat,” says Gilbert.

    “It is very, very clear that we are never going to be able to get all the information to create a perfect recovered form of an extinct species,” he says. “There will always be some kind of hybrid.” Though a replica will never be perfect, the key is that scientists are able to edit for the DNA that makes the extinct animal functionally different from the living one.

    Gilbert says that in order to make an ecologically functional mammoth, for example, it might be enough to edit elephant DNA to make the animal hairy and able to live in the cold. “If you’re making a weird fuzzy elephant to live in a zoo, it probably doesn’t matter if it is missing some behavioral genes,” he says. “But that brings up a whole lot of ethical questions.”

    Gilbert plans to try doing the actual gene editing on rats but would like to start with species that are still living. He intends to begin by doing CRISPR edits on a black rat genome to change it to a Norway brown rat before attempting to resurrect the Christmas Island rat. Though he is excited about his future research, the whole process still gives him pause. “I think it’s a fascinating idea in technology, but one has to wonder if that’s the best use of money as opposed to keeping the things alive that are still here,” he says.

    Reference: “Probing the genomic limits of de-extinction in the Christmas Island rat” by Jianqing Lin, David Duchêne, Christian Carøe, Oliver Smith, Marta Maria Ciucani, Jonas Niemann, Douglas Richmond, Alex D. Greenwood, Ross MacPhee, Guojie Zhang, Shyam Gopalakrishnan and M. Thomas P. Gilbert, 9 March 2022, Current Biology.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.02.027

    This work was supported by the European Research Council and the Danish National Research Foundation.


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