Monday, March 31, 2008

Hope for Tasmanian Devils

Good news at last! The Telegraph reports:

Cedric is the first of his species found to have displayed immunity from the horrifically disfiguring cancer, known as devil facial tumour disease or DFTD.
If Cedric proves the researchers right, and remains resistant to the disease, then he will form the basis of a breeding programme to distribute disease-detecting genes to a new generation of devils.

and says,

A Tasmanian devil by the name of Cedric may hold the key to future of his species.

He is an extraordinary devil, guinea pig and possible saviour, who is naturally resistant to the contagious facial tumours which have already killed half the devil population in Tasmania.

The unlikely would-be saviour of the world's largest marsupial carnivore is an unassuming devil named Cedric. In a development described as "the most exciting" in the five-year quest to halt devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), Cedric has shown an immune response to the unique communicable cancer.

The Independent:

Australia's population of Tasmanian devils has been devastated by a mysterious disease that causes disfiguring and usually fatal muzzle tumours. Wildlife experts say the carnivorous marsupials face extinction in the wild within 10 to 20 years unless the spread of the disease can be halted.

Now Cedric has given scientists new hope. When he was injected with dead facial tumour cells he produced antibodies – the first devil to do so. That means other devils with his mix of genes may be resistant to the disease, or capable of responding to a vaccine.



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