Extracting DNA from old fossils is now so common that doing it on museum specimens doesn’t attract much attention, but RNA is different. RNA allows researchers to study tissue and cells, how genes are regulated, and how genes are expressed.
The RNA of the Tasmanian wolf studied was completely specific to his individual tissues. The researchers also found traces of araneviruses (RNA viruses), which will help them study the diseases that plagued the Tasmanian wolf in its final days.
According to the authors, reviving the Tasmanian wolf or the woolly mammoth is not an easy task and requires deep knowledge of the genome and transcriptome regulation in these species.
Although many species have recently become extinct, and the number of extinct species increases every year, the Tasmanian wolf is one of the few species that has attracted the attention of de-extinction advocates.
The Tasmanian wolf is a marsupial, so bringing it back to life is easier than reviving mammals that have to grow for longer in the womb of a female of a closely related species. De-extinction of the Tasmanian wolf also comes with challenges that not all species face.
We have only a few samples of Tasmanian wolves and they have low genetic diversity. As a result, any Tasmanian wolf that is reintroduced will quickly become inbred. De-extinction can also weaken efforts to protect endangered animals, because we might think to ourselves that we can bring them back to life later if we want to; But even if de-extinction ends up deadlocked, it’s worth it.
In the future, researchers say, we may be able to recover RNA not only from extinct animals, but also the genomes of viruses such as SARS-CoV2 and their evolutionary ancestors from the skin of bats and other host organisms held in museum collections.
Research in the journal Genome Research It has been published.