Research on stem cells found in the teeth of Tasmanian Devils, could help find a cure for the deadly facial tumours which threaten the future of the species.
The work, by University of Adelaide PhD student Chelsea Graham, is replicating human stem cell research but using the pulp tissue in the teeth of devils.
It will lead to a better understanding of the cancer's biological make-up and help the development of potential treatment for the facial tumours which have reduced the wild population of devils by 80 per cent over the past 20 years.
The cancer, which is unique to devils, originated from a Schwann cell in the peripheral nervous system.
"Devils pass the aggressive, transmissible cancer to one another when they bite each other," Ms Graham said.
"The animals die within six months of being infected, as disfiguring facial tumours prevent them from eating."
As part of her work, Ms Graham flies to Tasmania collect teeth when they become available and only has 24-to-48 hours to return them to Adelaide before they become unusable.
To help her source more teeth, the university on Tuesday launched a crowdfunding campaign seeking to raise $5000.
Stephen Pyecroft, a senior lecturer at the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, said the stem cell research was a crucial step towards tackling the devastating disease.
"Money raised from the crowdfunding campaign will help Chelsea obtain more devil tooth samples and use the harvested stem cells to recreate the Schwann cell line," he said.
"This will be pivotal to understanding devil facial tumour."
Australian Associated Press