Experts want to bring animals back from extinction

London - Scientists have met to discuss the possibility of bringing back 24 animals back from extinction.

But a real life Jurassic Park is not an option, it is said, because dinosaur DNA is just too old.

A 3D computer generated image of a woolly mammoth emerging from ice block. A DNA molecule extending from hair symbolises the fact that genetic analysis can be carried out from long extinct species. Credit: AP

The so-called “de-extinction” of a number of species was discussed at a TEDx conference in Washington DC sponsored by National Geographic.

They included the dodo bird, the Carolina parakeet, last seen in 1904 in Florida, and the quagga, a plains zebra which once lived in South Africa.

The last wild one was shot in 1870 and the last in captivity died in 1883, the Journal reports.

The teams chose the animals using a number of criteria, and discussed the ethics of bringing them back to life. They discussed whether the species were desirable, if they held an important ecological function or if they were beloved by humans.

They also discussed if they were practical choices, and if there would be access to tissue with good-quality DNA samples or germ cells in order to reproduce the species.

They also considered whether they are actually able to be reintroduced into the world and what the reasons for extinction were in the first place.

This month’s National Geographic explains how de-extinction works – by taking old DNA samples and reassembling them into a full genome.

This is then injected into embryonic cells which have had their own DNA taken out, and a suitable living surrogate is found to give birth.

According to the Washington Post, 10 years ago, a team of scientists from France and Spain brought back an extinct wild goat – but it only lived for 10 minutes.

De-extinction does however raise a number of ethical and logistical questions, including how scientists can get a usable DNA sample from an extinct animal, and also whether they should.

The cost of de-extinction varies by species but it is believed could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It comes after scientists used cloning technology to attempt to bring back a frog from extinction by implanting a “dead” cell nucleus into a fresh egg from another frog species. The resulting embryos lived for just a few days.

But the groundbreaking research by the Lazarus Project has brought the “de-extinction” of creatures like woolly mammoths to the forefront of scientific discussion.

In repeated experiments over five years, the researchers used a laboratory technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer.

Using a method similar to that imagined in the blockbuster Jurassic Park, they took fresh eggs from the distantly related Great Barred Frog, deactivated their nuclei and replaced them with genes from the extinct frog. Some of the eggs spontaneously began to divide and grow to early embryo stage – a tiny ball of many living cells from a creature extinct for 30 years.

Although none of the embryos survived beyond a few days, genetic tests confirmed that the dividing cells contain the genetic material from the extinct frog. – Daily Mail