Encouraging step forward to save the Tasmanian devil


Published: 12/03/2013 Save the Tasmanian Devil Program

Scientists engaged in the fight to save the endangered Tasmanian devil have made some encouraging steps forward. New research is providing direction for the development of a vaccine for the contagious cancer which is driving Tasmanian devils to the brink of extinction.

The Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) is a transmissible cancer that is spread from animal to animal through biting. Until now, scientists believed that the tumours were able to avoid detection by the immune system because the Tasmanian devils have very little genetic diversity (preventing the immune system from recognising the tumour as foreign).

However, an international collaboration between the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Research Institute Tasmania and the School of Zoology, the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, the University of Cambridge, the University of Sydney and the University of South Denmark has discovered that the explanation is more complex.

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