De-Extinction

Scientists are using DNA to re-introduce formerly extinct species.

How about re-introducing some dinosaurs? But where?

Just a few days ago, we were asking if de-extinction was possible, and today, we’re a huge step closer to bringing recently extinct species back to life. Researchers have announced that they’ve grown early-stage embryos of the gastric-brooding frog, a species that has been extinct since 1983.

At yesterday’s TEDxDeExtinction event, University of New South Wales paleontologist Michael Archer announced the advance by the so-called Lazarus project. The bizarre gastric-brooding frog, the female of which incubated the prejuvenile stages of its offspring in its stomach, disappeared from the wild in 1979 and went extinct a few years later. However, Adelaide frog researcher Mike Tyler froze specimens of the frog prior to its extinction, leaving the door open for the species’ possible resurrection.

Scientists extracted DNA from a frozen frog specimen, and employed somatic-cell nuclear transfer, the same process used to clone still-living animals. The team took eggs from the distantly related great barred frog, deactivated that frog’s DNA with UV light, and inserted the gastric-brooding frog’s DNA into the eggs. The cells inside the eggs began dividing, becoming blastulas. The embryos died after a few days, long before developing into tadpoles, but DNA tests confirmed that they were gastric-brooding frog embryos, and Archer says they have high hopes for seeing this frog up and hopping soon.

Breeding programs are in place to attempt to bring certain extinct species back through selective breeding, and some selective breeding has been successful, but this is the first time that the embryo of an extinct species has been grown using this technique.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Rick

    Maybe that will work for the Cubs.

  • Phil Miller

    There’s hope for the GOP yet!

  • Wade

    I still think of the words of the scientist on Jurassic Park. Something like this, “We are so busy wondering if we could, we don’t stop to ask if we should.” Doesn’t seem to be a problem with a frog from the 1980′s, but is there an ethical line?

  • phil_style

    @Wade, there’s probably not an ethical line, but there might very well be a safety or environmental line. Certain species, if introduced back from extinction might cause ecological problems where existing ecologies are not able to cope with their arrival; much in the same way as current invasive species problems occur.

  • PJ Anderson

    I love how our philosophers, theologians, and writers have all asked us to give pause to our actions on the genetic front only to be shoved aside by arrogant scientists who say “because we can we should.”

    We all are awaiting the arrival of Gattaca in our lives, societies, and families.

    As it relates to this, perhaps some species needed to go into extinction. I’ll be working on my anti-T-Rex and Velociraptor guns now.


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