An Australian science project that resurrects an extinct frog species has been named one of the world’s best inventions!
The Lazarus Project, run by the University of Newcastle, Australia revived the genomes of an extinct Australian frog using sophisticated cloning technology to implant a “dead” cell into a fresh egg into another frog species.
So what’s so special about this amphibian?
The gastric brooding frog was first discovered in the 1970s, when scientists realized it had a pretty fascinating reproductive strategy. Instead of letting its offspring develop in the water, the species swallows its fertilised eggs or newly hatched tadpoles, and turns its stomach into a uterus where they develop until they’re fully formed frogs. When they’re ready to leave the womb, the gastric brooding frog will projectile vomit its offspring out into the world.
Yep, you heard that one right! The gastric brooding frog does PROJECTILE VOMITS!
As disdain as it sounds, the strategy got scientists pretty excited about all the incredible things they could learn from the species, such as new fertility strategies and treatments for stomach conditions such as ulcers.
But by the early 80’s, the gastric brooding frog was driven to extinction by an introduced species of fungus, and the work was lost. Now an international team involving UNSW scientists is hoping to reverse that.
How exactly do you bring an animal back from the dead?
As the video explains, it involves a process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, which is where the DNA-containing nucleus of a cell is extracted from frozen remains of an extinct species, and then inserted into an egg cell from a living frog that’s had its own DNA removed.
This newly fertilized cell then starts to develop into a tadpole of the extinct species. It’s the same process that scientists used to clone Dolly the sheep, although it’s a little harder with an extinct animal, because you’re using an egg from a different species. As a result, the team so far has only been able to keep a gastric brooding frog embryo alive for three days.
But they’re getting closer than ever to bringing it back for good!
via The Guardian