We might very soon see a fully-grown, living dinosaur since researchers at a North Carolina state university were able to produce the first dinosaur embryo in million years from the DNA sample found in a recently discovered pregnant T-Rex fossil.
According to experts the dinosaur fossil was found in almost perfect condition and the pregnant T-Rex’s DNA was preserved in mint condition, allowing the scientists to introduce it to the skin cells of a chicken. They say that our modern chickens are the closest relatives to our favorite dinosaur.
Linda Rushmore, head researcher at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ Paleontology Research Lab explains:
“We often think of the T-Rex as this huge crocodile-like bipedal reptile but, in fact, its closest modern relative are birds and the T-Rex was actually the dinosaur equivalent of a chicken.”
“The similarity of both DNA’s actually surprised us at first and we are extremely enthusiastic about the positive results and growth of the embryo,” she adds.
A CHICKEN-DINOSAUR HYBRID
Helmut Hans Fraser, a molecular biologist at North Carolina State University explains that the embryo that was created was a GMO hybrid between a chicken and a T-rex dinosaur and not a 100% dinosaur.
He explains, clearly excited by the discovery: “It is impossible to recreate a fully living dinosaur from these limited samples of DNA, but we have successfully introduced this DNA into living chicken skin cells, so the results of this embryo, if it comes to terms and eventually survives its own birth and does not present any biological defects, will be a total surprise. We have no idea what to expect at all. We have noticed that the embryo grows at abnormal rates for a common chicken embryo. It is presently sixty five times bigger than the size of an average chicken embryo only after three days, but its growth seems exponential, which is clearly fascinating” .
AN ETHICAL DEBATE
The recent discovery was welcomed by the scientific community and has left many enthusiastic about what this could possibly mean for the future of science. But there are those who, on the other hand, believe the experiment to be “unethical and possibly dangerous”.
French bioethicist, Jacques Clement, from the University of Versailles in Paris asks:
“Who would want, in his right mind, to bring back to life a 4-meter high creature weighing approximately 8 tons? There is already a leading consensus that GMO foods can cause damage to human DNA, and now we are creating a Frankenstein-like creature from dinosaur DNA? If extraterrestrials are looking at us right now, they must be shaking their heads in disbelief.”
He adds as a warning, “What happens if this species cross breeds with modern chickens? This could alter our modern chickens DNA forever as do GMO plants when they interbreed with millennia-old species.”
This isn’t the first experiment in the field of gene editing. Just las year, Harvard geneticist George Church and his colleagues, were able to insert mammoth genes for small ears, subcutaneous fat, and hair length and color into the DNA of elephant skin cells using a similar gene editing technique called CRISPR.