Resurrected mammoth blood very cool (w/ Video)

May 03, 2010
An illustration of the woolly mammoth by artist George Rinaldino Teichman

(PhysOrg.com) -- A team of international researchers has brought the primary component of mammoth blood back to life using ancient DNA preserved in bones from Siberian specimens 25,000 to 43,000 years old.

Studies of recreated mammoth haemoglobin, published today (Monday 3 May) in , reveal special evolutionary adaptations that allowed the mammoth to cool its extremities down in harsh Arctic conditions to minimise heat loss.

"It has been remarkable to bring a complex protein from an , such as the mammoth, back to life," says Professor Alan Cooper, Director of the Australian Centre for (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide, where the mammoth haemoglobin sequences were determined.

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"This is true palaeobiology, as we can study and measure how these animals functioned as if they were alive today."

Professor Cooper is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and a member of the University's Environment Institute.

"We've managed to uncover physiological attributes of an animal that hasn't existed for thousands of years," says team leader Professor Kevin Campbell of the University of Manitoba, Canada. "Our approach opens the way to studying the biomolecular and physiological characteristics of extinct species, even for features that leave no trace in the fossil record."

The project began over seven years ago when Professor Campbell contacted Professor Cooper, who was then based at the University of Oxford, to suggest resurrecting mammoth haemoglobin.

"At the time, I thought 'what a great idea' - but it's never going to work," says Professor Cooper. "Still, bringing an extinct protein back to life is such an important concept, we've got to try it."

The team converted the mammoth haemoglobin into RNA, and inserted them into modern-day E. coli bacteria, which then manufactured the authentic mammoth protein.

"The resulting molecules are no different than 'going back in time' and taking a blood sample from a real mammoth," says Professor Campbell.

The structural model of the mammoth haemoglobin, with the three key changes to the protein highlighted in red. Illustration by Ansgar Philippsen.

The team used modern scientific physiological tests and chemical modelling to characterise the biochemical properties that confer mammoths with physiological cold tolerance.

Team member Professor Roy Weber of the University of Aarhus, Denmark, who performed the physiological testing on the mammoth proteins, says the findings help show how the survived the extreme Arctic cold.

"Three highly unusual changes in the protein sequence allowed the mammoth's blood to deliver oxygen to cells even at very low temperatures, something that indicates adaptation to the Arctic environment," Professor Weber says.

"We can now apply similar approaches to other extinct species, such as Australian marsupials," says team member Dr Jeremy Austin, ACAD Deputy Director, who is currently using ancient to study the evolution of the extinct thylacine and the endangered Tasmanian Devil.

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User comments : 11

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baudrunner
not rated yet May 03, 2010
I guess that making the appropriate changes to the DNA of modern elephants would allow them to survive the arctic environment. That would make for an interesting experiment.
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (2) May 03, 2010
I know they've said it would never happen, but I want Jurassic park!! "Never" is such a certain word, and we are very seldom certain about anything.
Parsec
3 / 5 (2) May 03, 2010
I assume that the mammoths were the largest herbivores in the far north. As such they probably were the base of food for a number of predators. If in addition to the extreme cold adaptation, they also hibernated, or had periods of extreme lethargy, they must also have developed strategies for hiding from these predators. When human beings began hunting them, any such strategy would fail, leaving them helpless from hunting part of the year. Hence we would expect quite dramatic impact from hunting. Wiping out the Mammoths would also wipe out all dependent species.
otto1923
5 / 5 (1) May 03, 2010
That would make for an interesting experiment.
Blood. Protein. No, an interesting experiment would be to bring back the animal. Restore it. Quit farting around, life is short. Create herds in Denali. Also recreate killer Terror Birds.
zevkirsh
not rated yet May 03, 2010
yea, mamoths would be pretty damn useful down in mcmurdo. i'd feel safer on one of those than on a ski-doo.

I guess that making the appropriate changes to the DNA of modern elephants would allow them to survive the arctic environment. That would make for an interesting experiment.

Yellowdart
not rated yet May 03, 2010
I guess that making the appropriate changes to the DNA of modern elephants would allow them to survive the arctic environment. That would make for an interesting experiment.


Except your probably still left with a food source problem...An animal that size requires a good many calories a day. The artic can be fairly scarce.
GaryB
3.3 / 5 (3) May 04, 2010
Religion just talks about resurrection, science delivers the goods.
kevinrtrs
not rated yet May 06, 2010
Religion just talks about resurrection, science delivers the goods.


Hey Gary, I think you might be jumping the gun a bit here. Wait till the animal is up and running first, then jump for joy!
J_TX
not rated yet May 10, 2010
OK, Now let's talk Genetic manipulation. How long before a "cold vaccine" form of this protein is developed to allow me to surf SANS WETSUIT in the Pacific NW? What about injecting it into Antarctic teams prior to long-term exposure? What about Pseudo-Cryogenics? How will we get humans to sleep in 50-degrees so we can shut down most systems on Mars and deep space missions, and be able to revive them without tissue loss? Although they may wake up to find themselves covered with Mammoth hair...... :-)
kaasinees
1 / 5 (1) May 16, 2010
Although they may wake up to find themselves covered with Mammoth hair...... :-)

And the first wookie blood line was born
J_TX
not rated yet May 17, 2010

And the first wookie blood line was born

waaaaaaooouugh!