May 28, 2010
Science Scene - Jurassic Park Looms?
For now, the team plans to study Australian marsupials like the extinct thylacine, a small tiger, and endangered Tasmanian Devil.
The team's method for re-creating the blood was a breakthrough in itself. Researchers used DNA that had been extracted from Siberian mammoth specimens, between 25,000 and 43,000 years old. (Mammoth DNA has already been sequenced.)
They converted the blood DNA sequences into RNA, and inserted them into E. coli bacteria. The bacteria acted as RNA factories, manufacturing authentic mammoth protein.
The resulting hemoglobin molecules are no different than taking a blood sample from a real woolly mammoth, Cooper said.
The concept could conceivably be used for any extinct species, as long as scientists have DNA samples.
"(This) opens the way to being able to study all sorts of proteins from the past, and to study many physiological characteristics," Cooper said. "It's really paleobiology; you're studying how extinct species function, and how they adapted to climate change and other past environmental conditions that we can't get at in the fossil record."