Save the Tasmanian Devil

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Fund world-first research by the University of Adelaide 

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian devils are on the brink of extinction, devastated by the aggressive and fatal Devil Facial Tumour (DFT). 

The tumours are transmissible. There is no treatment and no cure.

But world-first stem cell research led by University of Adelaide researchers Chelsea Graham and Dr Stephen Pyecroft could change the devils’ fate.

Using dental pulp stem cells from Tasmanian devils, Chelsea and Stephen are able to better understand the tumour’s biological make up and develop potential treatments for the disease.

The research 

The research is a collaboration between the University of Adelaide’s School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and School of Medicine, with the laboratory work being carried out at the world-class South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).

The research is focused on the stem cells located in the pulp tissue of teeth – known as dental pulp stem cells. Chelsea is utilising methods that have been successful in human stem cell research and is applying them to both the Tasmanian devil dental pulp stem cells and DFT cells.  We believe this research is our best chance at tackling DFT and saving our Tasmanian devils.

Chelsea's research uses dental pulp stem cells from Tasmanian devil canine teeth. As South Australia only has a small devil population in captivity, Chelsea must fly to Tasmania to collect the teeth when they become available. She needs to work quickly, with only 24-48 hours to return the canines to SAHMRI before they are rendered unusable.

This research is a crucial step towards tackling the devastating disease and saving the Tasmanian devils. Donate now.


A unique disease

DFT is an infectious cancer that only affects Tasmanian devils. The population of devils in the wild has decreased by 80% in just the last 20 years.

The tumours first appear as small lesions or lumps in and around the mouth. These develop into large tumours around the face and neck, and sometimes other areas of the body. In some cases, badly affected devils may have many tumours throughout the body.

The mortality rate of a devil inflicted with this disease is 100% and once affected, it will starve to death within three to six months. Donate now to give the devils a better chance of survival

DFT is extremely unusual as it is only one of three recorded cancers that can rapidly spread like a contagious disease.

How the funds will be spent

It costs $535 a month just to pay for the consumables and cell cultures that Chelsea needs to conduct her research. It costs a further $1,000 to import the DFT cells. These cells can only be obtained in Tasmania and are vital to Chelsea's research.

Reaching our $5,000 target will ensure Chelsea can continue her lab research for a further year and allow her to explore the use of Tasmanian devil dental pulp stem cells as a potential therapy for DFT.

This is an all or nothing campaign. If we don't meet our target, the funds will not be deducted from your account.  

Research milestones

Chelsea must achieve several milestones in the lab before she is able to start developing potential therapies.

Step 1: Raising $1,000 will enable Chelsea to complete the characterisation of the dental pulp stem cell-derived Schwann cells (DFT originated in a Schwann cell which is a cell of the peripheral nervous system).

Step 2: A further $2,000 means Chelsea can complete comparing and contrasting dental pulp stem cell-derived Schwann cells with DFT cells to further our understanding of the origin of DFT.

Step 3: With a final $2,000, Chelsea will be able to perform an experiment to explore the use of Tasmanian devil dental pulp stem cells as a potential therapy for DFT.

Chelsea Graham

Researcher Profile

Chelsea Graham is a PhD Candidate specialising in cell biology and cancer research.

Chelsea has a special interest in native animal health and is the lead researcher on this project. Her role includes isolating and studying the stem cells from the teeth of the Tasmanian devils and utilising them to further investigate the aggressive and transmissible DFT.

Dr Stephen Pyecroft

Dr Stephen Pyecroft

Researcher Profile

Doctor Pycroft is a senior lecturer in veterinary pathology at the Univeristy of Adelaide's School of Animal & Veterinary Sciences, Roseworthy. 

He became involved in DFT research when the disease was first observed in devils from the east coast of Tasmania in the early 2000s. He continues his research at the University of Adelaide with a number of PhD researchers to further understand the cancer and investigate possible management measures within individual animals and devil poplations. 

Donate any amount
Let us know the amount you'd like to donate and we'll send you a tax-deductible receipt. 


Tasmanian devil images for you to keep
For your $10 donation, we will send you 4 images of Tasmanian devils by photographer Denis Smith.



Donate to the devils this Christmas 
Trying to think of something different to give this Christmas? Donate on behalf of family and friends this festive season and we will send you one Christmas postcard to give in lieu of a gift.



Donate to the devils this Christmas
Stuck for Christmas gift ideas? Donate on behalf of family and friends this festive season and we will send you two Christmas postcards to give in lieu of a gift.



Donate to the devils this Christmas
Give a gift that will truly make a difference this Christmas. Donate on behalf of family and friends and we will send you three Christmas postcard to give in lieu of a gift.



A devil's paw print keepsake 
Get your very own resin replica of a Tasmanian Devil paw. Both fore and hind paws have been replicated. Use as a keepsake of the campaign, or why not give a paw in lieu of a Christmas gift?



Get up close and personal with the devils
Get up-close to some of Australia’s most endangered native animals in Monarto Zoo’s off limits breeding facility. Learn about the many conservation programs fighting to save black-footed rock and mainland Tammar wallabies, brush-tailed bettongs, bilbies, and Tasmanian devils from extinction.