North America, Eighties, Weber discussed on Future Tense

Future Tense


Revive and restore is a us based organization that uses genetic tools to save endangered species. And if possible to try and bring back extinct ones talk to michelle. Weber is its director of conservation innovation. Now rationale is simple. It's that we need to use all the tools in the toolbox revival in stores making an effort to fill a gap in the conservation toolbox. We see a lot of incredible research coming out of academia out of industry. We've made huge progress in genetics. But it's been primarily applied so far to solve biomedical agricultural challenges. And it's very slow to trickle down into conservation and so what our organization is trying to do is speed up that knowledge transfer and bring those genetic tools to bear on conservation problems on biodiversity crisis tax on tax on and this is just another approach. This is another set of tools that will have to be combined with the existing well proven methods to improve outcomes and when we talk about genetic tools. What are we talking about. Exactly what sort of till's how do they work. So when we talk about the genetic rescue toolkit at revive restore we start with genomics basic. Dna sequencing on the genome scale will provide information about the diversity. In the history of that organism we also talk about bio banking so making sure that dna and that information is preserved out into the future we talk about synthetic and using molecular biology tools to actually create molecules in the lab that can replace the molecules derived from wild caught animals or wild harvested plants we use advanced reproductive to to restore genetic diversity and then we can use tools leg genetic engineering or gene. Editing to tackle problems like facilitated adaptation invasive species and even the extinction which brings us to elizabeth and a small ferry bundle of genetic potential elizabeth. Ann is a black footed ferret. So this is a small carnivore. That's native to the wild prairies of north america and we thought that these carnivores were extinct in the eighties. They hadn't been seen in a while and then they were rediscovered. Small population was brought into captivity in a captive breeding program was established. The captive breeding program has successfully produced hundreds maybe thousands of individuals but they're all descended from seven. Individuals seven founders. Luckily back in the eighties win. That first population was brought into captivity. Somebody was prescient enough to save cells and those cells refrozen at the san diego prison zoo and preserved until now and in twenty twenty one of those cell lines was cloned to produce elizabeth and the nucleus from those historic cells was injected into a donor. Xl and the resulting embryo was injected into a surrogate mother where it grew up into elizabeth cohen. Who was just born in december and so. This ferret carries a genome from the nineteen eighties. That has since been lost. And so this will be an eighth founder to the population and that audio of restoring genetic diversities enormously. Important isn't it. This is not just your works not just about bringing back more offspring safe from an endangered species. Yes absolutely so. There are thousands of black footed ferrets. That have been bred by that captive breeding program over the last several decades but all of the blackfoot ferrets. That are alive. Today are their siblings or cousins and they carry very closely related dna and so by introducing a new founder where actually adding new dna new genetic variation and that's a very different from just individual organisms. And so most of our work is about genetic rescuing it's about this genetic diversity available for natural selection to act on so the evolutionary process. He's don't stall that. These populations do not suffer inbreeding effects by you. Also adapting the genetic makeup of spacey's to try and make them more resistant to say disease. That kinda thing is that possible diseases. A real challenge pathogens are moving around more than ever. I think we've really seen this in the times of the coronavirus so there's multiple different ways that we can approach this challenge. Reviving restore has a cadillac science fund which supports portfolio of projects that tackle genetic rescue in different ways and several of them tackle disease so in one particular project sea stars are an example dated suffer from the wasting disease along the pacific coast of north america and we are using dna sequencing to infer which points in the genome may be responsible for survival in the stars. That are still alive today. With those answers we will be able to strategically breed. He starts to skew the population towards individuals with those same genome it components so that they will be more likely to survive when they were released. The black footed ferret for example suffers from somatic. Clegg this is an invasive pathogen and it's lethal so currently all black footed ferrets have to be vaccinated otherwise they die of sell vatican rag and so we can approach this infection challenge at least two different ways in the host weaken either directly engineer solutions to this particular pathogen engineering the immune system to adapt more readily so we are starting to think about both of these different approaches for the black footed ferret but as with any interaction it to consider it from both sides and so if we know how the pathogen works maybe we could actually engineer the pathogen to be less infectious or less virulent. And so that is another alternative that we're considering for the blackfoot In this elastic leg gret so genetic risk approach is showing considerable promise and revive and restore a male applying it to a range of animal species but it comes at a cost so genetic rescue is not cheap. I think from what. I've said so far you could see that coming very expensive than it. Costs us somewhere around forty thousand dollars for one round of cloning in the ferret so like anything. That costs will go down as technology improves but this is not meant to be an ongoing high maintenance solution. This is meant to jump start. The end goal is to eliminate conservation. Reliance so right now. We're spending much more than forty thousand dollars. Maintaining black footed ferret captive breeding programme paying all the people to take care of the ferrets. Paying for all of the reintroduction is paying for all of the vaccination programs et cetera. So if we can reintroduce enough genetic variation to where the ferrets can recover themselves out on the landscape and are no longer reliant on these types of programs then we will save money in the long run and the goal. Is that if you it strategically inject money in this type of genetic rescue at the right time in the right place. Then you can actually make things easier in the long term and bring cost way down.

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