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Preserve Species by Changing their Genetic Structure
#5
Revival of the species – The Beginning

The animal revival has actually already been done. In 2003, a group of Spanish and French scientists have revived a goat bucardo that lived in the Pyrenees. It was extensively hunted for couple of centuries and there was only a dozen or so of them left during the end of 1980s. The last species, female named Celia, died around 2000. Scientists preserved her cells, however, and have tried to revive her.

The way they have done this is by injecting the nuclei from the Celia’s cells into the goat eggs that have previously been emptied from their own DNA. These new, hybrid eggs have been injected into the surrogate mothers later on. Out of 57 implantations, only seven goats have become pregnant and six of these had a miscarriage. However, one goat remained pregnant and it gave birth by C-section. The newborn died, however, some 10 minutes later due to the breathing failure.

This does not stop scientists from thinking about doing it again, though. Many popular species have been extinct and their revival would mean a lot to science as their study could bring some new discoveries. Especially since the technology has improved tremendously since the goat Celia. The knowledge of animal cloning has been expanded a lot. The way Celia has been “revived” is now old-fashioned; today, we have the ability to make adult animal cells return into an embryo-like state, which can then develop into any cell type, including sperm or eggs. Embryos can be made from these by further genetic manipulation.

Another revival is in the progress, called the Lazarus project. Scientists working here are trying to revive the extinct species of frog with the unique way of breeding (female swallows the eggs once they have been fertilized by the male). In order to revive this species, scientists are using their relatives – Australian marsh frogs. They will insert the target nuclei into the eggs that have previously been emptied from the genetic material. The problem is that it is a very slow process, as new, fresh eggs are constantly needed and they are hard to come by. However, the embryos of extinct frog actually exist now, which means that the whole project might actually be successful.
#6
Revival of the species – Passenger Pigeon

Project “Revive & Restore” from Long Now foundation is all about de-extinction. Their first goal is to revive the famous passenger pigeon, which has been extinct for almost a century, now. It was really a great bird living in North America. There were around 5 billion of them when Europeans arrived there. Their flocks were sometimes long for several hundreds of kilometers and around one kilometer wide. The last known passenger pigeon was named Martha, and it died on September 1, 1914, in Cincinnati Zoo.

There were two main reasons for their extinction – they were hunted a lot, plus their natural habitat, the forest, was decreasing due to the expansion of cities and advancements in industry.

Reviving the passenger pigeon requires different approach due to several problems. The biggest one is the fact that there is no completely intact, functional genome. This could be solved by re-creating the genome - connecting the fragments of DNA from preserved specimens. It won’t be enough, however, since entire genome of an animal cannot be synthesized from scratch. It can be combined with another animal’s genome, though. Traits specific to passenger pigeon can be replaced with the other ones in some relatives, using stem cells.

Rock pigeon genome can be used, for example, and its modified stem cells could be transformed into germ cells, which could be inserted into its eggs. In there, they would move to the embryos’ sex organs. Once the eggs hatch, normal rock pigeons would come out, except that the eggs and the sperm they carry would have the modified DNA containing the passenger pigeon traits. Once the hybrid rock pigeons reach maturity, they could mate and lay eggs that would contain the actual passenger pigeons.

There are some other problems concerning the revival of this species. They are very social, and they tend to form flocks of millions, even billions. They did not stop breading once their numbers went down to several individuals; instead, this happened when there was couple of thousands of them left. This means that probably several thousands of passenger pigeons would first have to be revived in order for them to actually start breeding again.
#7
Revival of the species – Mammoth

Another goal of the Long Now foundation is to revive the mammoth. They have been extinct for some five thousand years now and a lot of scientists would like to see them walk the Earth once more. The first goal was to find the well preserved mammoth tissue in Siberia. Scientists have accomplished this by travelling near the Yana River and drilling into the frozen cliffs where they have found bone marrow, hair, skin and fat of mammoth.

The easiest way to revive the mammoth is by finding a live cell – it could be programmed to divide into millions of cells which could then be modified to grow into embryos. The closest living relatives of mammoth, the elephants, would then have to be used as surrogate parents. The problem with this is that it is really hard to find a living mammoth cell thousands of years old.

Another thing which is more likely to happen is to find an intact nucleus of a mammoth cell. This is a lot harder since it would have to be done the old-fashioned way – the intact nucleus would have to be inserted into the elephant egg cells that have previously been emptied from their own genetic material. If the DNA is good enough, it might start forming a mammoth embryo from the elephant egg cell.

The problems with this method also exist, though. It requires the harvesting of eggs from an elephant, and nobody has done this successfully yet. Moreover, even if the cells start dividing, transplanting the embryo into an elephant’s womb is still demanding by itself. And even if this goes well, bad things could still happen because gestation period of an elephant is around 22 months.
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The revival can actually happen even without the intact nucleus – by combining the pieces of the mammoth’s DNA with the elephant’s genome, which would give rise to either mammoth-related species, or, if done properly, to the mammoth itself.
#8
The way they have done this is by injecting the nuclei from the Celia’s cells into the goat eggs that have previously been emptied from their own DNA. These new, hybrid eggs have been injected into the surrogate mothers later on.
Out of 57 implantations, only seven goats have become pregnant and six of these had a miscarriage. However, one goat remained pregnant and it gave birth by C-section. The newborn died, however, some 10 minutes later due to the breathing failure.
In spite of these drawbacks, today captive breeding is a great program which is helping in preservation of many endangered species, without which, today we would have missed many species from our planet, forever!
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