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Scientists Are Now a Step Closer to Replicating Jurassic Park

Steven Spielberg is way ahead of his time.
IMAGE Zacharie Grossen / Public Domain
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Steven Spielberg might have gotten it right nearly three decades ago in 1993: To clone a dinosaur, extract its DNA from an insect preserved in citrine crystals. That is the premise of Jurassic Park, the movie that spawned a series of sequels even after 25 years of its release. 

For the first time in real life, scientists have succeeded in extracting DNA from an animal stuck in tree resin, a substance similar to the amber crystals depicted in the movie. 

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The achievement was published in the online journal PLOS ONE. According to the research paper, scientists wanted to find out whether tree resin is an ideal substance for preserving insect DNA. 

For the study, the researchers collected samples of amber-like resins that have ambrosia beetles embedded in them in the last six years. They were able to extract the DNA of ambrosia beetles preserved in the resin.

But the scientists say there is a caveat: The extraction process damages the DNA, so the scientists had to resort to advanced methods of replicating these DNA particles. 

Interestingly, the scientists used a method similar to detecting COVID-19 in people: the polymerase chain reaction or PCR. 

A PCR method is widely used by doctors and scientists to instantly make millions of copies of a DNA sample. This allows them to “amplify” a specimen to a large enough quantity to be able to study it in detail. The PCR test is used to detect the presence of a specific antigen that is produced when a person contracts COVID-19. 

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The purpose of the study was merely to measure how long DNA can survive within the resins of trees. The researchers were not very optimistic that DNA would survive a million years inside a crystal. Water in resin also plays a crucial role in accelerating the decomposition of cells, which is why only the exoskeletons typically remain in these fossils. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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