Genome breakthrough for devils

2010-09-16 16:23
A Tasmanian devil is pictured with a cancerous growth on its face. (AP/Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water & Environment, HO)

A Tasmanian devil is pictured with a cancerous growth on its face. (AP/Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water & Environment, HO)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Sydney - Australian scientists on Thursday said they had made a breakthrough in the fight to save the cancer-hit Tasmanian devil by mapping the species' genome for the first time.

The dark, furry marsupials were declared endangered in 2009 after a contagious cancer began sweeping through the population, disfiguring their faces so badly they are unable to eat and starve to death.

Some 70% of devils have already been lost to the infectious disease, which is spread by biting as the feisty creatures mate and fight over animal carcasses.

But researchers working to save the dwindling species said the genome sequence opened a new path to understanding where the cancer attacked and how it could potentially be treated.

"This sequence is invaluable and comes at a crucial time," lead researcher Elizabeth Murchison said.

Random mutations

"By comparing our draft sequence with samples taken from many hundreds of devils suffering from this cancer, we can begin to look at the spread of the disease... by identifying geographical routes and barriers in its transmission," she added.

"This knowledge could ultimately shape the ongoing conservation efforts in Tasmania."

Murchison said the information would allow scientists to identify which mutations had actually caused the devils' cancer "and perhaps allow us to target those mutant genes with particular drugs".

But Murchison, from the Australian National University, stressed the map was just the first step on what was likely to be a long and difficult road.

"Cancer is caused by a number of quite random mutations that occur in the genome. Actually finding out which ones of those cause the cancer is quite a challenge and something that we still have ahead of us," Murchison told ABC radio.

Scientists believe the cancer could wipe out the entire wild population of devils within 20 to 50 years, and experts have been capturing and breeding healthy animals in zoos for past six years to develop a buffer group.

Their work suffered a setback in August when a devil thought to be immune to the cancer, Cedric, died in captivity, dashing hopes scientists were nearing a cure.

Tasmanian devils first came to prominence when their unearthly shrieks and grunts while devouring animal corpses terrified European settlers arriving in Tasmania in the 19th century.

Some 150 years later, the devil has been made famous by "Taz", a Warner Brothers cartoon character that now fronts the conservation campaign to save the species.
- SAPA
Read more on:    cancer  |  animals  |  research
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

10 ways to drive her wild!

Fill her nights with passion and drive her wild with the best sex ever!

 
 

Men24.com

Hottie of the day: Angela
10 things you should never say after sex
Guy code: Looking good for the ladies
SA surfer rides massive waves in Maui

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

20% off ALL TV Series

Choose from 1000’s of the hottest TV Series . While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2100 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The fixed energy of the Scorpio Moon can make it hard to compromise today. If you set your mind on something you tend to get quite...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.