By 2050, it is estimated that 15 to 40 percent of living species will be eventually extinct due to climate change, habitat loss and other consequences of human behavior. To ward off such rigorous extinction, researchers are now looking forward to bring genetic engineering to the rescue. The picture below is an endangered Florida panther which was bolstered through hybridization with a related subspecies. [Credit: Nature]

Florida Panther

The research involves tracking hospitable habitats and reinstating core top-level species to bring them to the place where they have long been absent and determine how they react to their entirely new ecosystem structure. The technique known as facilitated adaptation that involves rescuing a target population or species by endowing it with adaptive alleles, or gene variants, using genetic engineering have also been deliberated. They think facilitated adaptation might be less logistically challenging than bringing species to the new environment as it could introduce harmful invasive species or unleash outbreak of disease.

To avert mass extinction of species, they initiated three options using facilitated adaptation technique and each option has its own set of challenges, complications and risks. they are:

  • Animals or plants from a threatened population could be crossed or hybridized with individuals of the same species from better-adapted populations to introduce beneficial alleles into the threatened population.
  • Direct transfer of specific alleles drawn from a well-adapted population into the genomes of threatened populations of the same species.
  • Genes taken from a well-adapted species could be incorporated into the genomes of endangered individuals of a different species.

They said successful facilitated adaptation would require unprecedented collaboration between organismal, ecological and molecular biologists and climate scientists, and also a change in people’s views about biodiversity conservation and its ethics, practices and impact on society.

Full reference is available at Nature