RNA obtained for the first time from an extinct species | Albiseyler

RNA obtained for the first time from an extinct species

The last known thylacine—the largest marsupial carnivore in recent times—died at Tasmania’s Beaumaris Zoo in 1936. the target of eradication effortsand now a team of researchers has managed to extract RNA from the creature – the first time such a feat has been achieved in any extinct species.

The researchers extracted, sequenced and analyzed RNA (ribonucleic acid) from an approximately 130-year-old thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) specimen in the Stockholm Natural History Museum. The team’s research describing recovery and its usefulness was published today in Genome research.

“Our study is unique in this sense because we were able to sequence RNA from an extinct species, the Tasmanian tiger, for the first time,” said Emilio Mármol-Sánchez, a paleogeneticist at Stockholm University and the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm. and the study’s lead author in an email to Gizmodo. “This is the first time we have been able to glimpse the actual biology and metabolism of cells in Tasmanian tigers just before they die.”

Thylacine specimen from the Stockholm Natural History Museum.
Photo: I love Dalén

Like DNA, RNA is a molecular structure made up of nucleotides. RNA is single-stranded and is used in protein synthesis and carries the genetic material in some viruses. In a recent study, researchers identified RNA from the skin and skeletal muscle tissue of a dried thylacine specimen that encoded proteins.

The thylacine – also called the Tasmanian tiger or marsupial wolf – was a carnivorous marsupial endemic to Tasmania and, in the ancient past, to Australia. It was overhunted in Tasmania in the late 19th and early 20th centuries after the Tasmanian government accused it of killing livestock. The animal was also pushed to extinction by habitat loss and introduced diseases, according to the National Museum of Australia.

Recently, the ‘de-extinction’ of the company Colossal Biosciences stated they will attempt to create a substitute species of thylacine and introduce it into the forests of Tasmania, which the species inhabited a century ago. Colossal also says it has plans to create representative species of the woolly mammoth and the dodo birdan iconic extinct species that disappeared about 4,000 years ago and about 350 years ago.

But all the talk of extinction is just the background to the RNA team’s recent research, not its goal. “The resurrection of the Tasmanian tiger, or in other words, its extermination, was not and is not the goal of our research,” said Mármol-Sánchez. But he added: “Any scientific development needed to resurrect or recreate extinct species back to life will certainly benefit science and society in general, from gene editing technology to in vitro fertilization or the computational tools needed to analyze the data.”

The thylacine was considered a good proof-of-concept target for the team, an idea that clearly paid off given the results. But scientists’ understanding of extinct and extant viruses could also benefit from this type of RNA recovery.

“In the future, we may be able to obtain RNA not only from extinct animals, but also the RNA genomes of viruses such as SARS-CoV2 and their evolutionary precursors from the skins of bats and other host organisms stored in museum collections,” said Love Dalén. , an evolutionary geneticist from Stockholm University and the Center for Paleogenetics, in the university version.

With so many extinct creatures sitting in museums, the recovery of RNA from other species may soon follow the thylacine. Ancient DNA studies have come a long way in recent years – both in and out of animals human population studies— and similarly, ancient RNA studies may soon follow.

More: RNA building blocks spotted at the center of the Milky Way

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