Freshly Baked Science
Breaking The Genetic Code
14th June 2018
So, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has just been released (take a look at Brains in Fashion for more), so what better time is there to discuss how these dinosaurs were bought back to life (yes, we are aware that this is a fictional film)?
It’s mentioned in Jurassic Park that the dinosaurs were bought back to life by extracting dinosaur DNA from mosquitoes that were preserved in amber (fossilised tree sap). The source of the DNA was the blood which the mosquitoes would have sucked from the dinosaurs. Any gaps in the dinosaur’s genome (full set of genes) were filled in by DNA from frogs.
The DNA can then be used in one of two ways to recreate a species, in a process called ‘De-extinction’.
1. Genome Editing
The genes from the extinct animal are inserted into a genome of the closest relative to that animal (the donor). The edited genome will be inside a somatic (body) cell. To allow this cell to grow into life, the nucleus (the part of the cell containing all the DNA) can be taken out of the cell and put into the donor egg cell, which has had its nucleus removed.
This cell is then developed into a zygote (stage before an embryo) by factors which encourage cell division. Once the cell has become a zygote, it can be inserted into the womb of the donor, where the animal will grow and develop.
Cloning is unlikely to be the way the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were made as it would need a preserved nucleus from the extinct species, and as dinosaurs went extinct so long ago, the nucleus's would be long gone!
But once the nucleus has been isolated, it can be swapped into the egg of a living relative to the extinct animal and is then grown and implanted in a similar way to the genome editing.
Could the DNA actually be extracted?
So that’s how it is done, but how likely is it that the DNA could be preserved for all those years? Unfortunately, studies have shown that the DNA would have degraded many years earlier… so there go all our dreams of visiting a real Jurassic Park!
Dinosaur DNA samples would be over 130 million years old, and when scientists examined insects which were fossilised 10,000 years ago, they couldn’t find any ancient DNA. This means the chances of finding DNA in samples, which are so much older, is practically impossible!
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