The geneticists achieved it, against all odds. They managed to extract RNA molecules from the tissues of an animal that became extinct more than 130 years ago. The results have important implications for the resurrection of already extinct species. The RNA recovered from the Tasmanian devil is proof of this.
They are also known as Tasmanian tigers or wolves. Thylacines were large predatory marsupial animals that lived in Australia. During the European colonization of the continent, these animals were declared agricultural pests and actively hunted. The last known living thylacine died in a zoo in 1936.
First RNA recovered
But that does not mean that scientists have stopped studying this animal. For the first time, researchers announced on September 19 that they had recovered its RNA. It is the genetic material present in all living cells that has structural similarities with DNA. The material was recovered from the dissected skin and muscle of a thylacine. It was stored since 1891 in a museum in Stockholm.
In recent years, scientists have extracted DNA from extinct animals and plants. Some of them are even more than two million years old. However, this study marks the first time that RNA has been recovered from an extinct species. RNA is much less stable than DNA.
«RNA sequencing gives insight into the true biology of this animal. “And its regulation of the metabolism that took place in the cells and tissues of Tasmanian tigers before they became extinct.” This is stated by the geneticist and bioinformatician Emilio Mármol Sánchez. He works at the Center for Paleogenetics and SciLifeLab in Sweden, lead author of the study.
Species that are reborn
It is not the objective of this research to recreate extinct species. But the ability to extract, sequence and analyze ancient RNA could spur similar efforts. from other scientists to recreate extinct species. RNA recovered from the Tasmanian devil can also decipher other keys.
«If we want to understand extinct species, we need to know what genetic complements they have. And also what the genes did and which ones were active.