The latest critter to face extinction is the Tasmanian Devil…. however this is not from the normal contributions from man nor is it known what has caused the cancerous Facial Tumour disease currently moving through the population of Devils on the East Coast of Tasmania, many of us have views as to the cause but few are willing to state publicly. Views range from the lack of Genetic Diversity in the population to the one which I subscribe to pesticide over use which has altered the genetic makeup of the creature, all of the current schools of thought are valid, but no single contributing factor has yet been identified and if it is the latter I doubt it will be…
But there has been a recent breakthrough, some good news which I am happy to report to all…
A Tasmanian Devil from the West Coast of Tasmania appears to have a Natural Immunity to the disease.
This population is from a different Genetic group, and has so far been spared the massive losses over the mountains (more than half of the East Coast species has died).
Cedric as he is known is the only Devil to be found to be resistant to the disease and along with his half brother Clinky are being tested. The unfortunate part of this process is that in order to find a cure the poor creatures must be injected with the disease. Both were injected with dead tumours by scientists. Clinky produced no antibodies, but Cedric did and appears to have built-in defences against the mystery illness.
So what next…. and this is a little more disturbing
Researcher Alex Kriess says the pair have had live cancer cells inserted into their faces.
“They haven’t developed a tumour so far,” he said. “We injected very few cells so it might take a while until they develop anything that we can see.”
Although I totally disagree with animal research of any kind, this may be the only way to save the species from extinct within the next 20 years…
Research is currently focusing on producing a vaccine for Devils with this genetic pattern, however hopefully a cure for the Devil populations will be around the corner
Does the result justify the means, to save a this one uniques species from extinction?