Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Tassie tiger's DNA comes to life in mice -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELEANOR HALL: Scientists at the University of Melbourne have revived hopes that the extinct
Tasmanian tiger could live again.

They've reactivated the Tiger's DNA inside mice, as Felicity Ogilvie reports.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The thylacine's DNA was taken from baby Tasmanian tigers that were preserved in
alcohol more than 100 years ago.

Scientists at Melbourne University put the DNA into mice embryos.

Doctor Andrew Pask says the Tasmanian tiger's gene responsible for building cartilage and bone came
to life inside the mice.

ANDREW PASK: They look like ordinary mice so the gene itself is not interfering with the normal
development of the mouse. So the gene that we put in there, it functions alongside the mouse's
normal developmental pathway.

It won't interrupt or make the mouse some sort of thylacine slash mice hybrid looking thing.

FELICITY OGILVIE: What then does it mean that you have been able to take this extinct DNA and
reproduce it in the mice?

ANDREW PASK: So what it means is that we can tell now that that particular gene from the thylacine,
that one piece of a genome actually had a specific function in forming the skeleton of that animal.
So it enables us to actually determine what that small bit of DNA did.

And you can go through the entire genome in the same way and look at each of the genes did and that
can then help us try and figure out exactly what it is that made a thylacine a thylacine.

FELICITY OGILVIE: So why didn't the altered mice embryos change into a hybrid creature? Well the
scientists only activated one of the Tasmanian tigers' genes. They say they would have to activate
every single one of the tiger's genes to bring the animal back to life and that can't be done -
yet.

One scientist who's been working on bringing the Tasmanian tiger back to life is Professor Michael
Archer.

He's the Dean of Science at the University of New South Wales and is excited by the experiment at
Melbourne University.

MICHAEL ARCHER: Extinction used to be thought of as forever. Well, hopefully we are beginning to
challenge that. We haven't pulled something back across that line yet by any means. That is a long
way down the road but these are first extremely important steps in moving in that direction and
challenging that ultimate "can't do" that we've accepted for centuries.

We may be able to bring something, that is extinct, back to life.

FELICITY OGILVIE: But on ABC Local Radio this morning the ethics of bringing the Tasmanian tiger
back from extinction were questioned by the Tasmanian Government's wildlife officer, Nick Mooney.

NICK MOONEY: The technicalities of it, I think are possible. What I'd more like to discuss is
should we be doing it? Should we be teaching people that extinction is not forever? Because it is
hard enough to get people to take the conservation of species we've got that are in trouble
seriously and I worry that this will just let people say, oh we can fix it up later.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Other Tasmanians like, Col Bailey, think there's no need to clone the Tasmanian
tiger.

COL BAILEY: Why clone it when we've still got it. Amongst the scientific fraternity, they are
sceptical of the tiger being still in existence. But they don't get out in the bush and see what I
see.

FELICITY OGILVIE: What do you see in the Tasmanian bush?

COL BAILEY: Well, I see signs that the tiger is still with us.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The last captive Tasmanian tiger died in Hobart Zoo in 1936.

ELEANOR HALL: Felicity Ogilvie reporting from Hobart.