Posted by Flux on 

28 February 2024

What’s trending?

Animal de-extinction, also known as resurrection biology, refers to attempts by scientists to generate organisms that either resemble or are an extinct species. Scientists have been trying for years to accomplish this but de-extinction recently came under the spotlight when Colossal, a biotechnology company, revealed plans to bring back the woolly mammoth, the thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) and, early last year, the dodo.  Since its founding in 2021, the start-up has raised over $225 million in funding. There are three ways of bringing back an extinct animal: (1) Cloning involves producing organisms that are genetically identical to the extinct species.  (2) Genome editing changes the genetic code of a gestational creature to closely resemble an extinct species. (3) Back breeding attempts to increase the amount of a trait that has been in decline. It requires the trait to still be present in a population, though it will not produce the original extinct species – just the appearance of it. In a related development, extinct animals are being partially resurrected to be used as lab grown meat. In March 2023, scientists grew cultured meat in the form of a meatball using the DNA of the extinct woolly mammoth. It remains to be seen whether this trend will gather steam or remain a novelty. 

Why is it important?

Proponents argue that de-extinction could lead to the improvement of current conservation strategies and could also help improve ecosystems that have been destroyed by human development. The return of the woolly mammoth, for example, could have significant benefits for combating climate change. Through their daily movements, these creatures created an ecosystem with more grass than trees. This helps keep the ground temperature low, and would slow the thawing of the permafrost and the release of the trapped carbon dioxide. In addition to de-extinction, the technology could also be used to save living species on the brink of extinction. Some also argue that bringing back extinct animals would increase public awareness and engagement in animal conservation. However, many ecologists and ethicists have expressed concerns. This is an ultra expensive endeavour and research into the economics of de-extinction has found that funds would go farther if invested in conservation programmes for living species. There are also ethical concerns about the wellbeing of animals involved in research, such as surrogates and newly resurrected organisms. Their habitats may no longer exist and the circumstances under which they became extinct in the first place, may still be in place. The woolly mammoth, for example, could be hunted into extinction again, by poachers after their ivory. Or, a disease to which a resurrected animal may not have immunity could eradicate that species entirely. An unintended consequence of de-extinction could be the way that society views extinction. What incentive would people have to protect wildlife if they can be resurrected?

What can businesses and policymakers do about this?

Policymakers should approach the regulation of de-extinction with a balance between encouraging scientific innovation and safeguarding ethical, environmental, and social considerations. They must establish clear ethical guidelines and regulatory frameworks for de-extinction research and applications. Various stakeholders and experts must be consulted to protect the interests of the animals used in experiments. Facilitate public consultation and engagement to gather diverse perspectives on de-extinction. Foster international collaboration and information sharing on de-extinction research and practices. The field is receiving large amounts of investment but businesses should approach de-extinction with caution, ensuring that their involvement aligns with ethical, environmental, and social considerations. Collaboration with scientists, conservationists, and regulatory bodies is crucial to navigate the complex challenges associated with de-extinction. Explore potential research and development opportunities in related fields, such as biotechnology, genetic engineering, and conservation. Stay informed about regulatory frameworks and comply with international and national regulations governing genetic engineering and de-extinction. Consider the potential impact on brand reputation and customer perceptions.. 

By Flux Trends 

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