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Scientists Take Big Leap To Resurrect Extinct Frog Species

posted 19 Mar 2013, 11:28 by Mpelembe   [ updated 19 Mar 2013, 11:29 ]

Like the plot of the blockbuster movie, Jurassic Park, an effort to revive an extinct species of frog is showing signs of success in a laboratory in Australia. Scientists in Newcastle have taken an important step in bringing the Gastric-brooding Frog back to life, by implanting its "dead" cell DNA into the eggs of a living frog relative.

 NEWCASTLE, NSW, AUSTRALIA (AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION) - An international team of scientists have revived and reactivated the genone of an extinct Australian frog using cloning technology to implant a "dead" cell nucleus into a live frog's egg.

The breakthrough, being likened to something out of Jurassic Park in the media, could see the recreation of extinct species, according to Professor Michael Mahony of the University of Newcastle in Australia.

"We've come a long way. I suppose the most exciting thing is that we've actually seen an embryo grow through the first 24 hours of growth,' Professor Mahony said.

The uniquely bizarre Gastric-brooding Frog, or Rheobatrachus silus, swallowed its eggs, nurtured its young in its stomach and gave birth through its mouth.

"This is unbelievable but this is what it does, or did. But by the time anybody got excited about it suddenly it was extinct," said Professor Mike Archer, a Lazarusteam member from the University of New South Wales.

The frog was native to the northeasters state of Queensland but was declared extinct in 1983. The reasons for its demise are unclear but scientists believe habitat degradation and pollution may have been contributing factors.

The Lazarus Project team recovered cell nuclei from tissues collected in the 1970s and kept for 40 years in a conventional deep freezer.

In repeated experiments using the living eggs of a distant relative, the Great Barred Frog over five years, the researchers employed a laboratory technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer to bring the frog back to life.

"We've shown it through DNA profiling and DNA analysis that the genetic material that's developing in the cells of the new embryo are in fact from the extinct frog," said Dr John Clulow of the University of Newcastle.

Although none of the embryos survived beyond a few days, genetic tests confirmed that the dividing cells contain the genetic material from the extinct frog.

"We've got very close. But we've actually created a set of tools I call them, technical approaches, to prevent extinction or at least to buy an insurance policy for many other frogs faced with extinction," Professor Mahony said.

Researchers are now discussing plans to 'de-extinct' other extinct animals and plants, including the woolly mammoth, dodo, Cuban red macaw and New Zealand's giant moa.

The say they're confident the Gastric-brooding Frog experiments will revive the species once the technological hurdles are overcome, and spawn a new realm of science and reproductive research.