Scientists recover RNA from an extinct species for the first time

Scientists recover RNA from an extinct species for the first time

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In a world first, scientists have succeeded in recovering RNA molecules from a preserved Tasmanian tiger specimen. Officially thought to have gone extinct decades ago, the thylacine (or Tasmanian tiger) was a distinctive carnivorous marsupial native to Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea.In more recent years, researchers have been attempting to find a way to effectively bring the species back to life using samples collected from carefully preserved museum specimens.

Now it seems as though the idea of resurrecting the thylacine has been brought one step closer to reality thanks to a new study which successfully recovered RNA molecules from a Tasmanian tiger specimen that had been preserved in a collection at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm for 130 years. This enabled the team to sequence the transcriptome of the skin and skeletal muscle tissues, revealing tissue-specific gene expression signatures similar to those of extant marsupials.

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“This is the first time that we have had a glimpse into the existence of thylacine-specific regulatory genes, such as microRNAs, that got extinct more than one century ago,” said Marc R. Friedlander – an associate Professor of molecular biosciences at Stockholm University.

It will still be some time, however, before bringing the species back to life will become possible.

“Resurrecting the Tasmanian tiger or the wooly mammoth is not a trivial task, and will require a deep knowledge of both the genome and transcriptome regulation of such renowned species, something that only now is starting to be revealed,” said study lead author Emilio Marmol.

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