.
MODERN RESEARCH PROJECTS:
- THE THYLACINE CLONING PROJECT -
(page 1)
.

 
.
thylacine pouch young

    In 1999, Professor Michael Archer (then Director of the Australian Museum in Sydney) instigated a bold and ambitious plan to clone the thylacine.  The project's research team obtained tissue samples from the internal organs of a female thylacine pup that had been preserved in alcohol for well over a century.  Their goal was to extract viable DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) with a view to recreating the species through cloning.  A clone is any organism whose genetic information is identical to that of the parent organism from which it was created. 

    DNA, albeit highly fragmented, was extracted from the tissues of the pup.  In addition, DNA was also extracted from thylacine bone and tooth specimens from within the Australian Museum's collection.  Interestingly, the best quality DNA recovered by the research team was from the tooth specimen, and not the preserved pup.

    By the middle of 2002, after over two years of intensive research, the Australian Museum succeeded in replicating individual thylacine genes using the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) process.

    It is not within the confines of this presentation to discuss the complexities of the cloning process itself, but it is worth highlighting some of the hurdles that any scientific team will have to overcome if cloning of the thylacine is ever to become a reality.

.
    DNA rapidly degrades following an animal's death, to the point of being extremely fragmented after around five years.  To successfully clone the thylacine, its entire genome would have to be determined from such a sample.

    If we make the assumption that at some point in the future, the entire thylacine genome can been determined from these degraded samples, then researchers would be faced with the next major challenge; the creation of artificial chromosomes. 

Australian Museum thylacine pup specimen P762
.
Australian Museum thylacine pup specimen P762.
Source: International Thylacine Specimen Database 4th Revision 2011.
.
    Until recently, this was thought to be technically impossible.  However, such is the pace of research within this field that in the April 1997 edition of the journal "Nature Genetics", a research team lead by Dr. Huntington Willard from the Department of Genetics & Centre for Human Genetics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio (USA), announced the discovery of the first synthetic human chromosome (Harrington et al. 1997).

    If we take the cloning story one step further, and assume that artificial thylacine chromosomes could be created, then a surrogate egg donor would need to be found and an egg removed from that donor.  Either of the thylacine's nearest relatives, e.g., the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) or Tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) have been suggested as potential surrogates.

.
Potential thylacine surrogates
.
Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)
.
Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii).
Tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus)
.
Tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus).
.
.
References
.
back to: The Thylacine Genome Project (page 4) return to the section's introduction forward to: The Thylacine Cloning Project (page 2)


Search the Thylacine Museum
Site Map
Website copyright © C. Campbell's NATURAL WORLDS.
Photographs and other illustrations (where indicated) are © C. Campbell's NATURAL WORLDS.
Other photos and images are © their respective owners.
.