Lazarus Project Recreates Extinct Australian Frog
    By News Staff | March 15th 2013 07:13 PM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    The Lazarus Project team says they have been able to recover cell nuclei of the extinct gastric-brooding frog, Rheobatrachus silus,
    from tissues collected in the 1970s and kept for 40 years in a conventional deep freezer. 

    The genome of
    Rheobatrachus silus, extinct since 1983, has been revived and reactivated by a team of scientists using
    somatic cell nuclear transfer
    to implant a "dead" cell nucleus into a fresh egg from another frog species.

    Rheobatrachus silus is famous for swallowing its eggs, brooded its young in its stomach and giving birth through its mouth. The "de-extinction" project aims to bring the frog back to life.

    In repeated experiments over five years, the researchers used somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which is banned by the Obama administration in the United States. They took fresh donor eggs from the distantly related Great Barred Frog, Mixophyes fasciolatus, inactivated the egg nuclei and replaced them with dead nuclei 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.

    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.

    A gastric-brooding frog, Rheobatrachus silus, giving oral birth in the lab of Mike Tyler of the University of Adelaide. Photo: Mike Tyler, University of Adelaide

    "We are watching Lazarus arise from the dead, step by exciting step," says the leader of the Lazarus Project team, Professor Mike Archer, of the University of New South Wales, in Sydney. "We've reactivated dead cells into living ones and revived the extinct frog's genome in the process. Now we have fresh cryo-preserved cells of the extinct frog to use in future cloning experiments.

    "We're increasingly confident that the hurdles ahead are technological and not biological and that we will succeed. Importantly, we've demonstrated already the great promise this technology has as a conservation tool when hundreds of the world's amphibian species are in catastrophic decline."

    The technical work was led by Dr Andrew French and Dr Jitong Guo, formerly of Monash University, in a University of Newcastle laboratory led by frog expert, Professor Michael Mahony, along with Mr Simon Clulow and Dr John Clulow. The frozen specimens were preserved and provided by Professor Mike Tyler, of the University of Adelaide, who extensively studied both species of gastric-brooding frog – R. silus and R. vitellinus - before they vanished in the wild in 1979 and 1985 respectively.

     A whole frozen gastric-brooding frog after 40 years in a conventional freezer. Photo: Bob Beale

    UNSW's Professor Archer spoke publicly for the first time today about the Lazarus Project and also about his ongoing interest in cloning the extinct Australian thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, at the TEDx DeExtinction event in Washington DC, hosted by Revive and Restore and the National Geographic Society.

    Researchers from around the world are gathered there to discuss progress and plans to 'de-extinct' other extinct animals and plants. Possible candidate species include the woolly mammoth, dodo, Cuban red macaw and New Zealand's giant moa.

    The results are yet to be published.


    Jurassic Park in the making>

    Gerhard Adam
    Importantly, we've demonstrated already the great promise this technology has as a conservation tool when hundreds of the world's amphibian species are in catastrophic decline.
    I'm not sure what to make of this statement, since it seems either incredibly naive or simply stupid.  In the first place, if a species is in decline, then perhaps we should consider what we are doing to cause that effect and stop it.  That would make more sense than resurrecting a species after the fact.

    If we aren't doing anything to cause the extinction, then by what "law of biology" does it make sense to resurrect a species that was incapable of surviving?

    This seems like another attempt to supercede natural biological processes, or to avoid changing our negative habits that give rise to extinctions.

    Neither one makes much sense.  What is being proposed to prevent a second extinction?  Are we going to keep them locked in cages or under human control, so that we can maintain the illusion that somehow we're extending the natural biosphere?  We need to stop pretending that we can destroy with impunity and then pat ourselves on the back because we think we've found a technology to create an artificial fix for our screw-ups.

    They're right about one thing; this is about technology and not biology.  Resurrecting a species is NOT a conservation tool. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Will you be able to make them male and female? If not then you will not be able to replenish the frog population.

    Gerhard Adam
    That's not a problem, especially when you consider that many frogs are capable of switching genders.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    Possible candidate species include the woolly mammoth ....
    Really?  Can someone be this stupid and still be a biologist?

    If they should succeed, there is definitely one conclusion that can be drawn from such an experiment.

    It would conclusively demonstrate that despite years of education that it is no "cure" for fundamental human idiocy.  They should be embarrassed to even suggest such a thing.
    Mundus vult decipi