An accident that began with using the office 3D printer to make lunch ended in a remarkable scientific advancement — and a new kitty for Kseniya Tarasov.
A small mechanical-engineering firm in Seattle has done what scientists thought would take decades to do: clone an extinct species. And without even trying.
Kseniya Tarasov, who works in research and development for the firm, has been developing a new kind of mechanical parts made with organic material. To create prototypes of the components, Tasarov uses a three-dimensional printer loaded with living cells from the marrow of cows.
“We can create pulleys and gears using organic material,” Tarasov explains. “By using living cells, instead of aluminum or plastic, we’ll eventually make parts that don’t wear out. Like our bones, the living parts will grow and heal themselves.”
Tarosov never dreamed that her work on making air-conditioning systems more energy efficient would eclipse the cloning of Dolly the sheep and bring back an extinct cat.
“I was going to 3D-print a pizza for lunch using some ingredients left by a scientist visiting from Edinburgh,” Tasorov says. But on April 1 she had to put lunch on hold when she saw what was emerging from the 3D printer.
Tasorov had accidentally swapped materials — instead of pizza-flavored gel, she filled the printer with cells and collagen extracted from the frozen remains of the extinct Issoire Lynx.
When Tasorov returned to check on the progress of her pizza, she was shocked to find a fully formed lynx kitten on the 3D printer’s output tray.
Known to scientists as Lynx issiodorensis, the Issoire Lynx is generally considered as the ancestor of all species of lynx alive today. It inhabited Europe and became extinct at the end of the last glacial period. Its skeleton resembled that of living lynxes, but the Issoire Lynx’s smaller body more closely resembled a typical member of the cat family.
Dr. Carl A. Tote of the Regenerative Species Institute was almost speechless when he heard the news. “We thought resurrecting an extinct species would require decades of technological leaps in genome engineering, reproductive biology, and veterinary medicine,” Tote said.
The visiting scientist, who asked not to be identified, was in Seattle to consult with Tasorov on her research. His work in Edinburgh centers around somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) techniques first used in 1997 when Dolly the sheep became famous by being the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell.
Kseniya Tasorov plans to keep her new cat. “He’s a very nice kitty,” she says. “I’ll name him Pepperoni.”
Tasorov describes her first moments with the new animal: “The first thing he did was go to the door and want out.” Evidently, Lynx issiodorensis shares more than a physical resemblance to Felis domesticus. “I let him out and closed the door. Then he wanted in.”