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Biotech Science Idle

"Lazarus Project" Clones Extinct Frog 154

Posted by samzenpus
from the welcome-back dept.
cylonlover writes "Australian scientists have successfully revived and reactivated the genome of an extinct frog. The 'Lazarus Project' team implanted cell nuclei from tissues collected in the 1970s and kept in a conventional deep freezer for 40 years into donor eggs from a distantly-related frog. Some of the eggs spontaneously began to divide and grow to early embryo stage with tests confirming the dividing cells contained genetic material from the extinct frog. The extinct frog in question is the Rheobatrachus silus, one of only two species of gastric-brooding frogs, or Platypus frogs, native to Queensland, Australia. Both species became extinct in the mid-1980s and were unique amongst frog species for the way in which they incubated their offspring."
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"Lazarus Project" Clones Extinct Frog

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  • As long as they aren't cloning any Raptors, or giving them hover-boards, I think we're OK.
  • by wbr1 (2538558)
    ...welcome out new amphibian overlords.
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_vj2e1m7Hlgw/TSRzvDOTZTI/AAAAAAAAxUk/JWOcv-P25Fo/s1600/vliz.jpg
  • by Annirak (181684) on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:59AM (#43202607)

    This is the thing I still don't get about cloning extinct species. The mitochondria are also part of the organism, but they don't seem seem to ever get taken into account when there is talk of cloning. If you take the mitochondria from one species and the nuclear DNA from another species, what do you get? You could easily argue that you get a sort of hybrid species, which is not quite the same as either parent species.

    • Remember that "species" is a surprisingly loose concept. You could define species as organisms who can successfully mate to produce fertile offspring, that's a close definition for sexually reproducing organisms. But there'd be no way to test that here.
    • by Cyberax (705495)
      Most species have very small mitochondrial DNA. For humans it's about 16k. Frog mito DNA is just about 23k. Besides, mitochondria are fairly self-contained.
    • I was thinking the same question, but realized that if you think of the functional application of the mitochondria then it is like modular software. You can replace a function or submodule with another function or submodule/subroutine which implements the same functionality in a different way/algorithm/technique. And, as long as the new routine has no side-effects [wikipedia.org] (affecting items not specifically called via the API / calling module variables), then it's a valid replacement that "cannot be detected otherw
      • by plus_M (1188595)
        This analogy isn't really appropriate. Organisms are not programs, and the operation of DNA and proteins cannot be considered something along the lines of an API call. Life is an emergent phenomenon, and mutations that do nothing but change the rate at which proteins get phosphorylated can cause diseases as complicated as cancer [wikipedia.org]. This is particularly true of developing organisms. We don't really have a firm grasp on how differences in mitochondrial DNA can affect the growth of organisms, so we can't say
        • The functional equivalence I was getting at was not the DNA (or any sort of "API" sort of thing) but the fact that mitochondria play a role as the energy provider in cells by phosphorylation of AMP -> ADP -> ATP. ATP is used as the main energy source in cells, and it's the mitochondria within cells that provides the "refueling"/"recharging" via the Krebs cycle [wikipedia.org] also known as the citric acid cycle.
          .
          Yes, mitochondria also play other roles, but you could (probably) take a different DNA-source mitochondr
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        I was thinking the same question, but realized that if you think of the functional application of the mitochondria then it is like modular software

        I'm no biologist ... but pretty much every time someone on Slashdot tries to use a computer analogy for stuff like this, it proves to be horribly wrong.

    • by Balanced (959223)
      The endosymbiotic theory suggests that mitochondria are--or at least were--a separate species themselves. That they developed from bacteria co-opted by other cells as power plants, eventually becoming the stripped-down symbionts we know today. It would explain why they have their own DNA, and I'd say it would make them (mostly) irrelevant to determination of the species they inhabit.
    • by tylikcat (1578365)

      I'd be interested to see any variances from mitochondria... but really, there might be all kinds of epigentic effects that we currently have no way of tracking. We tend to obsess a lot about DNA as such, but it's becoming more and more clear that transcriptional regulation happens at many levels, and we don't understand all of them.

    • by Jaktar (975138) on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:42AM (#43204211)

      http://www.ted.com/talks/stewart_brand_the_dawn_of_de_extinction_are_you_ready.html [ted.com]

      There was a TED talk filmed in February that discusses what they are doing, who is doing it, and why. He does briefly mention what you're talking about. In short: Nature doesn't do things exactly the same way every time either, so don't worry about it.*

      * I'm summing up quite a bit. Just watch the video (~20 mins).

  • by johnnyb (4816) <jonathan@bartlettpublishing.com> on Monday March 18, 2013 @09:02AM (#43202619) Homepage

    It will be interesting to see how effective this is. DNA is not the sole source of information for an organism's morphology. Nuclear transfer has shown some traits which are not dependent on DNA. It will be very interesting to compare the morphology of the final organism to the original, extinct species.

  • DNA bottlenecks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kpoole55 (1102793) on Monday March 18, 2013 @09:04AM (#43202645)

    As with jaguars, this will be considered one of the worst DNA bottlenecks of all time depending, of course, on how many specimens he kept and how many can become viable. If only the one then they'll all be clones even if they start breeding on their own. just think, we may produce thousands of these in a controlled environment only to have them wiped out completely when they run into a bacteria, virus or fungus to which they have no resistance but some other variant member of the species might. it would kill them all and we'd have to start from scratch. Such will be the case with the Tasmanian tiger as well, a wonderful achievement at bringing back an extinct species and with all the fragility of fine porcelain to be kept safe, admired and protected from any outside danger.

    Yes, I know there are spontaneous mutations but they take time and these specimens likely won't have that time.

    • Clearly, we have to irradiate the specimens in order to make them mutate faster and generally toughen their moral fiber!

      • by kpoole55 (1102793)

        or dose them with mutagenic compounds but as with radiation it will likely create more harmful mutations than helpful. Most spontaneous mutations would usually be fatal, benign at best, if not fatal, and only occasionally beneficial.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      But think of all the cool housepets we can have in the future!

    • Reading your answer makes me think a bit differently (to keep them away from public). It may sound like a movie plot. Do you think it is possible to revive some species from extinction and that could simultaneously revive some serious/unknown diseases with it? Or those revived species become a new host for some diseases that in turn mutate to different diseases that resist the current medication? And if it is and the diseases spread out into the wild (from whatever reason), would it really be worthwhile rev
  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday March 18, 2013 @09:09AM (#43202687)
    Oh, yeah, "oooh" "ahhhh", that's how it always starts. But then later there's running and screaming.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm wondering if we have become to dumb to live..

      kids,
      1984, Atlas Shrugged, Jurassic Park, these are books, not blueprints.

  • by mr_jrt (676485)

    I wonder if they filled the gaps in the gene sequences with DNA from dino-saaaaaurs...

  • Intelligent Design (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CMYKjunkie (1594319) on Monday March 18, 2013 @09:23AM (#43202813)
    In all of the arguments between evolution vs intelligent design as to why creatures exist, it's interesting to see how humans seem to be able to take on the role of intelligent designer to decide what species will not become or remain extinct from evolution. One can imagine a future where many creatures on the planet are "designed" to exist. Meaning, humans decide to re-breed (re-institute? re-animate?) extinct species while deciding others should be allowed to remain extinct.

    Of course: WhatCouldPossiblyGoWrong

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday March 18, 2013 @09:43AM (#43202963)

      There are no such arguments.
      Intelligent design is just a smoke screen to get creationism into schools.

      • I didn't say it was a GOOD argument! :)
      • That's interesting, because I always though Intelligent Design was just a way for creationists to rationalize scientific observable facts.

        Honestly, I believe in God and that he has an influence on our Universe. But even I understand that there's a separation between scientific facts, and faith. I wish more people would understand that as well.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          If you have faith you don't need a rational explanation. That is the whole point of it.

          If there is this God who designed and created him?

          If you say no one did, then that just adds one more step before you hit that point.

          • God is the Alpha and the Omega. Understanding that, there never was a "before God" and "who created God" premise.

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              I already covered that.

              It means this "God" offers no useful explanation of anything. You just moved the problem of who created X one step over. That sort of reply is no different than me saying "The universe just exists, there is no time before the universe since without it time does not exist."

        • by tbird81 (946205)

          I used to believe in God too, but couldn't stand the anti-science and anti-logic of other Christians. Hopefully exposure to the stupidity of religion eventually frees you from Him.

    • by mjr167 (2477430)
      And yet many of us find it ludicrous that someone could have done the same thing to us...
      • Yes, because we've already got a much more sensible explanation for life on Earth that doesn't require an outside intelligence for which there is no evidence.
      • And yet many of us find it ludicrous that someone could have done the same thing to us...

        It's not that it's ludicrous or couldn't have happened; it's that we have no reason to think it might have happened. There's no evidence for which ID fits and provides an explanation for which a hundred other half-baked ideas don't fit equally well.

        When an idea doesn't have enough going for it to even get off the ground, nobody cares whether it's ludicrous or possible. ID has not yet been evaluated in those terms. W

    • Of course: WhatCouldPossiblyGoWrong

      On the other hand: WhatCouldPossiblyGoHilarious.

      Suppose over the next hundred years, humans were to start doing this, and some of the resulting speciments got into wild. Then we had a very serious catastrophe (nuclear war, asteroid strike, etc) resulting in 1) we stopped doing it 2) (nearly) all the cultural records were lost, so there are no documents explaining what FooLab did in 2041.

      Fast forward six millennia, to the year 8013. Scientists would have rediscovered evolution, but unlike today's situation, some of the evidence wouldn't quite add up right. They would see, from looking at DNA evidence, that something very interesting happened in a few thousand years ago. Someone would get an idea, and they would be able to formulate tests to falsify or confirm a brand new theory, called Intelligent Design, and they'd confirm it. Actually, they would probably call it something less stupid, but it really would be an actual theory, in every sense of the word.

      Then, miraculously, in 8016, someone finds a cache of ancient documents. It looks like some storage device the year 2016 survived, and they're able to pull some internet discussion threads off it. They see people talking about something called "Intelligent Design" and something else about the world being six thousand years old. Since it's an incomplete document cache, they have no idea where the 2013 "Intelligent Design" came from, that it was made up, rather than being derived from evidence or related to science somehow. The 8016ers have no idea where the 2013 idea of a 6000 year old world came from, they just know that people sometimes mentioned it, usually mockingly.

      You're in 8016 and you learn this. 6000 years ago, people were talking about some things that you know to be true, in a limited form. (Most of life isn't only 6000 years old, but some of it is. Presumably the 2016 discussions, for which you have incomplete records, were about similarly limited samples.) What do you think?

      You think "oh shit, people have gone through this before, and something horrible keeps happening every 6000 years," and you start building bomb shelters. You also start looking at the DNA evidence for an echo, for a 12000 year old genetic node, although you don't find it. But there are plenty of ways to come up with good conspiracy theories for why it's not there. Maybe the 2013 people realized that the 4000-BC-genetically-engineered creatures were responsible for the 4000 BC nuclear war, and hunted them (nearly) to extinction. You need to start exterminating the 21st century abominations now .. or wait, is that exactly what went wrong in prior cycles, and what causes the bigger catostrophe? OMG by head hurts. What are we going to do? WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO!!?!?!!

    • Step 1: Perfect cloning.
      Step 2: Repeal Endangered Species Act
      Step 3: Club baby seals
      Step 4: ???
      Step 5: Profit!

    • by Sigg3.net (886486)

      You should check out Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series.
      The books are really just human evolution put into space (25 mill planets, AFAIR) with some artificial (moral) selection down the road.

  • Shepard (Score:4, Informative)

    by Azure Flash (2440904) on Monday March 18, 2013 @09:24AM (#43202819)
    Shouldn't we have saved the Lazarus project for when Commander Shepard needs it to come back and save the universe again?
  • This is being overly hyped before the actual results most of us would consider significant. From TFA: "Although none of the embryos survived longer than a few days, the work is encouraging for others looking to clone a variety of currently-extinct animals". I realize that there may be significant steps taken with this attempt, but the real success for most people is when of these things is hopping around.

  • Yeah a new home grown invasive species !! Reaching back in time to create the next pestilence :)

  • by goffster (1104287) on Monday March 18, 2013 @09:44AM (#43202973)

    comment

  • by iapetus (24050) on Monday March 18, 2013 @10:03AM (#43203143) Homepage

    I recall the time they found those fossilized mosquitoes
    And before long, they were cloning DNA
    Now I'm being chased by some irate veloceraptors
    Well, believe me... this has been one lousy day

    Jurassic Park is frightning in the dark
    All the dinosaurs are running wild
    Someone shut the fence off in the rain
    I admit it's kinda eerie
    But this proves my chaos theory
    And I don't think I'll be coming back again
    Oh no

    I cannot approve of this attraction
    'Cause getting disemboweled always makes me kinda mad
    A huge tyrannosaurus ate our lawer
    Well, I suppose that proves... they're really not all bad

    Jurassic Park is frightning in the dark
    All the dinosaurs are running wild
    Someone let T. Rex out of his pen
    I'm afraid those things'll harm me
    'Cause they sure don't act like Barney
    And they think that I'm their dinner, not their friend
    Oh no

    Jurassic Park is frightning in the dark
    All the dinosaurs are running wild
    What a crummy weekend this has been
    Well, this sure ain't no E-ticket
    Think I'll tell them where to stick it
    'Cause I'm never coming back this way again
    Oh no... oh no

  • Now there's no need to save the polar bears.
  • I realize that Australia has had some unique species but given the fact that the Cane Toad is threatening to wipe out native species [wikipedia.org] and that people are having mass cane toad whacking parties. [news.com.au] Why in the hell would they want to bring back another toad, er frog? I mean shouldn't they be spending their energies in coming up with a crocodile that eats cane toads or cats that have 5 inch saber like claws that could kill them? or maybe just an ad campaign "Cane Toad, it's what's for dinner mate!"

    This

  • Please clone a dodo, apparently they tasted very good!
  • All I could think about was season 3 episode 6 of Doctor Who. Egads.No thanks.
  • I like the American Bison. It's the native bovine critter, has excellent meat, plenty of leather and it belongs here. Buffalo Bill Cody [wikipedia.org] and his gang created a major bottle-neck in their genetic code, but there's still plenty of old hides and the like around.

    I would like to see something like this used to re-diversify the Bison genome by cloning long dead individuals to make a healthy modern population. All you would have to do is inseminate the existing herds with the old code to expand the base. If it

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

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