Jul 17, 2019 | Updated: 10:03 AM EDT

Scientists Save Tasmanian Devils From Devil Facial Tumor Disease

Mar 14, 2017 01:22 AM EDT

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A Tasmanian Devil suffering from Devil Facial Tumor Disease is seen in this file photo July 15, 2005 near Hobart, Australia.
(Photo : Tasmania Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment/Getty Images)

Tasmanian devils have been plagued for two decades now. Their numbers have decreased more than half as DFTD or Devil Facial Tumor Disease is killing their species. Good thing, a team of scientists have found a solution for them.

The Menzies Devil Facial Tumor Disease Team has tried immunotherapy to a group of Tasmanian devils that have the disease. In just three months, the tumors were gone and the trial was a success. The leader of the team, Professor Greg Woods was very happy as this was the first time that they found a cure. This scientific discovery is a life saver and a game changer for the Tasmanian devils and scientists alike, he said. They used the devils' own immune system to battle the cancer cells or tumors.

The experiment was tried with five Tasmanian devils. The three gave positive outcome while the other two did not. What the scientists did was like cancer versus cancer, reported The Mercury. Though there are Tasmanian devils that have a natural immune to the Devil Facial Tumor Disease, many still don't. With this new discovery, scientists are hoping the number of Tasmanian devils will increase again as many will not die because of the disease.

DFTD is a transmissible Schwann cell cancer that has decimated the Tasmanian devil population, explained Science News. It was first discovered in 1996 in the far northeast of Tasmania. Since then, the scientists have found out that 80% of the species population was wiped out. Because of that, an insurance population was made. The government and the scientists have made conservation efforts to protect the animals.

They want to retain the harmony of the ecosystem since Tasmanian devils are carnivorous and they have to be alive to lessen their prey. A vaccine is now in preparation to give to the other Tasmanian devils that have DFTD.

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