Scientists behind Dolly the sheep want to process squirrel DNA to get rid of grays and protect red in the UK
Mission to save Britain’s red squirrels by changing the DNA of rival grays so that they die out is launched by the same team of scientists who cloned Dolly the sheep
- Researchers behind the first cloned mammal Dolly want to process squirrel DNA
- They want to make a ‘gene drive’ in male grays so that they can pass it on to women
- It would then make gray females infertile and stop reproducing
- The red squirrel population in Great Britain is only 140,000 v 2 million gray
The scientists who cloned Dolly the sheep are now targeting gray squirrels in an effort to free Britain completely.
Researchers at the Roslin Institute want to use DNA modification to make all female gray squirrels infertile.
They look at creating a ‘gene drive’ for male grays that would spread to women when they mate.
Experts claim that this would completely eradicate the gray squirrel population in Britain in the most humane way.
Researchers at the Roslin Institute want to use DNA modification to make all female gray squirrels infertile so that they die out in the UK in an attempt to protect the endangered red squirrel
They want to reduce the number of grays in an effort to protect the few remaining red squirrels on the British Isles.
How does the gray squirrel kill the red squirrel?
Red squirrels are native to the UK and spend most of their time in the trees.
However, gray squirrels were introduced to the UK from North America in the late 19th century.
Initially introduced as an ornamental species, they quickly spread throughout the UK.
Gray squirrels have a disease called the squirrel parapox virus that does not seem to affect their health, but often kills red squirrels.
Gray squirrels eat green acorns more often, so they will decimate the food source before turning red.
Red cannot digest adult acorns, so only green acorns can eat.
When red squirrels are put under pressure, they will not breed that often, which has aggravated the first problem of the gray squirrel.
Another major factor in their decline is the loss of forests in the last century, but road traffic and predators are all threats.
There are currently only around 15,000 red squirrels in the UK.
Grays were imported from the US into the UK in the 19th century and contributed to the near-eradication of the red population of Great Britain.
There are currently two million grays in the UK, but only 140,000 red wines, which are limited to remote locations such as the Isle of Wight, Anglesey and forests in the north of England and Scotland.
The science used to modify gray squirrels could also be used to get rid of other pests, such as mink, ring-necked parakeets, and Muntjac deer.
Gus McFarlane, a researcher at the Roslin Institute, told The Sunday Times: “We are investigating strategies that can control the British gray squirrel population in a humane way. Female infertility is spread. ”
Experts from the institute are also looking into the possibility of changing the genes of gray squirrels so that they are more likely to have male babies and not female ones.
This would mean that fewer of them would multiply and that numbers would eventually decrease.
The Roslin Institute is funded in part by the European Squirrel Initiative, a charity dedicated to the preservation of red squirrels.
It was behind the very first clone of an adult mammal when the Dolly sounded the sheep in 1996.
A charity spokesperson said, “The goal would be to make a few thousand gene-processed grays and then release them so that the gene spreads, and the species slowly wipes out in the UK.
HOW WAS DOLLY THE SHEEP MADE?
Dolly was the only surviving lamb from 277 cloning attempts and was made from a breast cell taken from a six-year-old Finn Dorset sheep.
It was established in 1996 in a laboratory in Edinburgh using a technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
The groundbreaking technique involved transferring the nucleus of an adult cell into an unfertilized egg with its own nucleus removed.
Dolly the Sheep wrote history 20 years ago after being cloned to the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh. Dolly is shown in 2002
An electric shock stimulated the hybrid cell to start dividing and generate an embryo, which was then implanted in the womb of a gestational mother.
Dolly was the first successfully produced clone from an adult mammalian cell.
The creation of Dolly showed that genes in the core of an adult cell are still able to return to an embryonic totipotent state – meaning the cell can divide to produce all the difference cells in an animal.