Grace Carr, DCNF
Scientists are experimenting with a gene editing tool that could bring extinct animals back to life, making “Jurassic World,” Hollywood’s blockbuster film about dinosaurs come back to life, a reality.
The Crispr gene-editing tool contains the Cas9 gene, permitting scientists to edit genes with DNA from extinct creatures, according to The Wall Street Journal. The tool also allows researchers to edit the DNA of eggs, sperm and embryos, meaning scientists can affect the evolution of species.
“Crispr put de-extinction on the plate,” said American scientist Ben Novak, who has worked on a de-extinction project for the past six years, according to WSJ. Novak hopes to bring back the passenger pigeon, which went extinct in 1914. Thirteen baby pigeons sit at a facility in Melbourne, Australia, where Novak hopes to edit their DNA with genetic material that will bring the extinct bird back to life.
Harvard Medical School geneticist George Church also seeks to bring back an extinct creature. Church, who aims to revitalize the woolly mammoth species, has used ancient bones to sequence part of the mammoth’s genome by extracting DNA from mammoth remains. Woolly mammoth’s disappeared between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago, largely because of changing climate and human hunting.
Church hopes to create a hybrid that will share both the attributes of the extinct woolly mammoth and the Asian elephant.
Crispr has allowed scientists to create chicken and dairy cattle that are immune to disease, and mice have long been used in gene-editing research. Pigs edited with the Crispr tool are being used in research on kidney development. Researchers in China and the U.S. have also edited out gene mutations in human embryos.
Crispr and gene-editing technology, however, “doesn’t mean you are going to end up with an animal that behaves like a passenger pigeon or a woolly mammoth,” said ecology and evolutionary biology professor Beth Shapiro. She teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz and authored the 2016 work, “How to Clone a Mammoth.”