Lazarus frog resurrection in Time's Top 25

Nov 25, 2013
Lazarus frog resurrection in Time's Top 25
A gastric-brooding frog. Credit: Professor Mike Tyler, University of Adelaide

A UNSW-led team of Australian researchers who succeeded in growing cloned embryos containing the DNA of an extinct frog has been named in Time magazine's top 25 inventions for 2013.

The Lazarus Project – a "de-extinction" project aimed at bringing the Australian gastric-brooding frog back to life – is the only Australian project on the worldwide list. Other inventions include a driverless toy car, a new atomic clock, and an artificial pancreas.

The bizarre gastric-brooding frog, Rheobatrachus silus, which became extinct in 1983, swallowed its eggs, gestated its young in its stomach, and then gave birth through its mouth.

The team is led by UNSW's Professor Mike Archer, and includes Professor Michael Mahony, Simon Clulow and Dr John Clulow from the University of Newcastle, Associate Professor Andrew French and Dr Jitong Guo from Monash University and Professor Michael Tyler from the University of Adelaide.

They used cells from frog tissue that had been stored for more than 30 years in a conventional deep freezer. They then applied a technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer, in which the nuclei of dead cells from the extinct frog were placed into the eggs of a related species of living frog, to produce the early stage embryos.

Although none of these frog embryos survived beyond a few days, genetic tests confirmed that the dividing cells contained the genetic material from the extinct frog.

Professor Archer says he is confident that the barriers to reviving a gastric-brooding are technical, rather than biological.

"De-extinction represents a new, potentially very important conservation tool to optimise biodiversity in the world. It is not an alternative or a threat to more conventional conservation programs," he says.

Cross-species cloning techniques could help secure currently endangered species, by using common species to build up the numbers of their endangered relatives. It could also bring back potentially keystone species whose absence threatens the stabilty of an ecosystem, he says.

According to Time magazine, great inventions are those which solve problems that people didn't think they could solve, or problems they didn't even know they had.

The magazine ordered the inventions "using rigorous, objective and scientific criteria", beginning with the most fun and ending with the most useful.

Among the most fun are alcoholic coffee and a cronut – a croissant-style pastry that is fried like a donut. Among the "world-changing" inventions are waterless fracking, the X-47B drone developed by the US Navy and an exoskeleton for paraplegics.

The Lazarus project was placed 19 out of 25 – in the "major deal" category.

Explore further: Lowly 'new girl' chimps form stronger female bonds

More information: See the full Time magazine list here.

Related Stories

Lost frog DNA revived

Mar 15, 2013

As part of a "Lazarus Project" to try to bring the Australian gastric-brooding frog back from extinction a UNSW-led team has succeeded in producing early stage cloned embryos containing the DNA of the frog, ...

The last croak for Darwin's frog

Nov 20, 2013

Deadly amphibian disease chytridiomycosis has caused the extinction of Darwin's frogs, believe scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Universidad Andrés Bello (UNAB), Chile.

Recommended for you

Our bond with dogs may go back more than 27,000 years

18 hours ago

Dogs' special relationship to humans may go back 27,000 to 40,000 years, according to genomic analysis of an ancient Taimyr wolf bone reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 21. Earlier genome ...

Social structure 'helps birds avoid a collision course'

21 hours ago

The sight of skilful aerial manoeuvring by flocks of Greylag geese to avoid collisions with York's Millennium Bridge intrigued mathematical biologist Dr Jamie Wood. It raised the question of how birds collectively ...

Orchid seductress ropes in unsuspecting males

21 hours ago

A single population of a rare hammer orchid species known as a master of sexual deception appears to have recently evolved to seduce a new and wider-spread species of impressionable male wasps.

Scientists announce top 10 new species for 2015

23 hours ago

A cartwheeling spider, a bird-like dinosaur and a fish that wriggles around on the sea floor to create a circular nesting site are among the species identified by the SUNY College of Environmental Science ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sinister1811
not rated yet Nov 25, 2013
Amazing project. It's a shame the embryos didn't survive, but it's remarkable how the tissue from the extinct frog was stored, and used after 30 years to produce an animal was alive temporarily. I hope they succeed with this in the future.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.