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RNA From Museum Specimen of Tasmanian Tiger Offers Clues for De-Extinction

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RNA From Museum Specimen of Tasmanian Tiger Offers Clues for De-Extinction A groundbreaking study has revealed the extraction and sequencing of RNA molecules from a 130-year-old preserved Tasmanian tiger specimen, shedding light on the biology and potential resurrection of this extinct species. Led by Emilio Mármol Sánchez from the Centre for Palaeogenetics and SciLifeLab in Sweden, the research team successfully reconstructed the transcriptomes of the skin and muscle cells, providing valuable insights into gene expression and regulation.

The Tasmanian tiger, also known as the thylacine, was a carnivorous marsupial that became extinct in 1936 due to hunting and habitat loss. The last known individual perished in captivity at the Hobart Zoo in Tasmania. Despite the fragile nature of RNA compared to DNA, the scientists were able to retrieve RNA from a tissue sample stored at room temperature in the Swedish Museum of Natural History. Using advanced computational methods, the researchers meticulously filtered out any contamination from environmental sources, such as human or bacterial DNA or RNA.

The isolated RNA allowed them to reconstruct the transcriptomes of the skin and muscle cells, which provided a comprehensive picture of the RNA molecules expressed by these cells. This groundbreaking study, published in the journal Genome Research, represents the first successful recovery of RNA from an extinct species. It challenges the prevailing notion that RNA is too fragile to survive in ancient specimens that were not optimally preserved, such as those not subjected to freezing or desiccation.

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The implications of this breakthrough in recovering RNA from an extinct species are vast, particularly in the field of paleogenomics. RNA offers valuable information about the biology and functionality of extinct organisms, as it provides insights into gene activity and regulation across different tissues and conditions.

Additionally, the recovery of RNA can significantly enhance the quality and completeness of ancient DNA sequences. By utilizing RNA to infer the original DNA sequence, researchers can fill in gaps and gain a more comprehensive understanding of an extinct species’ genetic makeup. One notable discovery from the study is the identification of a unique microRNA sequence exclusive to the thylacine, not found in any other marsupial.

MicroRNAs are small RNA molecules that play a crucial role in gene expression regulation by binding to messenger RNAs and inhibiting their translation into proteins. This finding suggests that the thylacine possessed a distinct gene regulatory network, which likely contributed to its evolution and adaptation.

Moreover, the recovery of RNA from an extinct species holds promise for de-extinction endeavors. It can assist in identifying genes vital for the development and survival of extinct organisms, which can potentially be modified in living relatives or surrogate hosts. Some scientists are already exploring the possibility of reviving the thylacine by genetically modifying its closest living relative, the Tasmanian devil.

This breakthrough in paleogenomics, made possible by the retrieval and analysis of RNA from an extinct species, opens up new avenues for studying ancient and extinct organisms. The information gleaned from these RNA sequences provides unprecedented insights into their biology, evolution, and potential resurrection.

In conclusion, the successful isolation and sequencing of RNA from a 130-year-old Tasmanian tiger specimen have expanded our understanding of extinct species and the possibility of de-extinction. This groundbreaking study showcases the resilience of RNA and its value in uncovering the biology and function of ancient organisms. The implications of this research extend beyond the realm of scientific discovery, offering hope for the preservation and potential revival of extinct species.

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