University of Newcastle researchers are responsible for one of the world’s most significant inventions of 2013, according to TIME Magazine‘s 25 Best Inventions of the year 2013, just released.
Will the gastric brooding frog make it back to the pond?
The Lazarus Project has developed de-extinction technology which will resurrect vanished species and is the only Australian invention named in the global list.
The breakthrough genome technology, which has been successfully applied to the gastric brooding frog, extinct since 1983, could herald a new era in global biodiversity and conservation management.
In its introduction to this year’s list, TIME said, “What makes an invention great? Sometimes it solves a problem you didn’t think could be solved. Maybe you didn’t realize you needed to resurrect an extinct frog. Now you do.”
The resurrection of the gastric brooding frog may also have implications for the medical world.
“The gastric brooding frog swallows externally fertilized eggs into its stomach, which then operates as a uterus. No other living creature can do this. This unique ability could help the medical world work out how to manage gastric secretions in the gut,” said Michael Mahony, Project Leader, Professor of Biology at the University of Newcastle and internationally renowned “Frog Whisperer.”
Known as somatic cell nuclear transplantation, the cloning technology had never previously been successfully applied to dead tissue. In repeated experiments over five years, the nuclei of donor eggs from the distantly related great barred frog, Mixophyes fasciolatus, were inactivated and replaced with dead nuclei from the gastric brooding frog which resulted in eggs spontaneously dividing and growing to early embryo stage.
Amazingly, the Lazarus Project team recovered the extinct frog cell nuclei from tissue samples collected in the 1970s and kept for 40 years in a conventional deep freezer.
“The tissue samples we recovered from the last known laboratory to have a colony of these species had not been treated with cryoprotectant, or anti-freeze to stop the cells from expanding and becoming damaged during the freezing process. It wasn’t until we looked at the cells under the micro-scope that we could see the cell walls were still intact,” said the biology professor.
The research team believes a human spread fungus was the primary cause of extinction.
“If it is clear that we have exterminated a species, we arguably have an obligation to bring it back,” said Professor Mahony.
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.
“Recognition by a global publication as prestigious as TIME Magazine is evidence of University of Newcastle researchers driving world-class innovation. As global leaders in their field, they are developing solutions for the world’s most significant problems,” said Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen.
The School of Environmental and Life Sciences (SELS) at the University of Newcastle is one of the largest schools in the university, and forms part of the Faculty of Science and Information Technology. Specializations offered through the school include
- Development Studies
- Environmental Science and Management
- Geography and Environmental Studies
- Earth Sciences
- Food Science and Human Nutrition
- Sustainable Resource Management
- Exercise and Sports Science
- Marine Science
This school generates enthusiasm for learning and research training that is unique because of the diverse and integrated specialties of the academics coupled with the availability of an impressive array of analytical equipment, laboratory facilities and field-research support resources.
The research and laboratory facilities are excellent and there are opportunities to develop multidisciplinary skills and build research networks via the nature of the diverse fields of expertise within the disciplines. Field work is a major component of many of the science degree programs and many opportunities exist to develop these skills in areas of geology, geography, ecology and marine biology.
Are you interested in science and research programs at the University of Newcastle? Want to study in Australia? Contact OzTREKK for more information about science degrees available at Australian universities.