A biotech startup is bringing Dodo back from the dead with Woolly Mammoth and Tasmanian Devil 😶

Ayaan Paul
Ayaan PaulFeb 02, 2023 | 14:04

A biotech startup is bringing Dodo back from the dead with Woolly Mammoth and Tasmanian Devil 😶

We may yet live to see the day the Dodo walks the planet again. Along with the Woolly Mammoth. As well as the Tasmanian Devil. Check out how this 'de-extinction' company is trying to revive these long lost species.

What: Colossal Biosciences is a biotech startup that aims to bring back extinct species through a process known as de-extinction. The process involves creating a living organism from the DNA of an extinct species.

  • The company has been focusing on species such as the Tasmanian Devil and the Woolly Mammoth, which have been extinct for many years.

Most recently, Colossal has announced a $150 million investment to bring back the Dodo - a species of flightless birds endemic to the island nation of Mauritius, that went extinct in the 17th century, and gave its name to the term 'dodo', which is, you know, used for someone foolish.

(Psst: History has been pretty unkind to the Dodo, calling it the 'dumbest bird' and all, but a research from a few years ago said that Dodos might not have been as stupid as they looked.)

How: Colossal is using cutting-edge science to bring back extinct species. The science behind the process is rooted in the understanding of the genetic code and the mechanics of DNA. 

  • The first step in the process is to obtain a sample of DNA from an extinct species, which can be obtained from fossils, mummified remains, or preserved tissue samples.
  • The DNA fragments are then compared to the DNA of closely related species to identify the missing genetic information required to recreate the extinct species.
Photo: Colossal Biosciences

Once the genome has been reconstructed, scientists can use a process known as the CRISPR-Cas9 to make specific changes to the genome. The CRISPR-Cas9 is a powerful tool that allows scientists to modify the DNA sequence of an organism. In the case of de-extinction, scientists can modify the genome of a closely related species to make it more similar to the extinct species.

Photo: Colossal Biosciences

Once the genetic code is determined, it can be used to create an artificial chromosome that contains all of the genetic information required to create the extinct species.

This chromosome can then be introduced into a living cell of a closely related species.

A still from Jurassic Park (1993)

The next step is to insert the modified genome into an egg of a closely related species. The egg is then implanted into a surrogate mother and the offspring is raised.

  • This offspring will have the characteristics of the extinct species, but will be a hybrid of the extinct species and the surrogate species.

The feasibility of de-extinction depends on several factors,

  • including the quality and availability of DNA samples,
  • the extent of genetic differences between the extinct species and its closest living relatives,
  • and the ability to create an artificial chromosome that can be introduced into a living cell.

What Colossal is saying: According to Colossal, the expansion and growth of human industry and civilisation has drastically altered the Earth's biomes. Landscapes and ecosystems are destroyed by the use of land for resources and the wastes of production, sometimes in a matter of months. When these pristine settings suffer irreparable loss, so do the habitats and breeding grounds of the plant and animal species that call them home.

It should go without saying that damage to our air, water, and land is a major factor in the current rapid extinction rate.

So, what exactly does this startup want to do? Colossal’s objective is to create a de-extinction library of animals and house genetic DNA/embryos from endangered species, beginning with the genetic revival of the Woolly Mammoth.

  • Their ultimate goal is to create a population of the extinct species that can survive and thrive in the wild.

However, there are many challenges to this process, including ethical and ecological considerations.

The reintroduction of an extinct species into the wild could have unexpected consequences for the existing ecosystem.

Moreover, de-extinction is a complex and expensive process that requires a significant investment of time, money, and resources. This raises the question of whether or not the resources used for de-extinction could be better used for other conservation efforts, such as protecting and conserving endangered species.

But, but: While de-extinction may come off as exciting to see such remarkable creatures walk the Earth once more, the potential benefits of reintroducing extinct species into the world are still up for debate.

Although if we’re lucky, we may live to witness the day a certain other beloved extinct species walk the planet once more...

Last updated: February 02, 2023 | 14:04
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