Researchers take another step in bringing back a wooly mammoth

wooly mammoth
Model at the Royal BC Museum. Credit: Wikipedia
(Phys.org)—A team of researchers working at Harvard University has taken yet another step towards bringing to life a reasonable facsimile of a woolly mammoth—a large, hairy elephant-like beast that went extinct approximately 3,300 years ago. The work by the team has not been published as yet, because as team lead George Church told The Sunday Times, recently, they believe they have more work to do before they write up their results.

Church is quick to point out that his team is not cloning the , instead they are rebuilding the genome of the ancient animal by studying its DNA, replicating it and then inserting the copy into the genome of an Asian elephant—the closest modern day equivalent. They are not bringing forth a new mammoth yet either—all of their work is confined to simple cells in their lab. What they have done, however, is build healthy living elephant cells with mammoth DNA in them. Their work is yet another step towards that ultimate goal, realizing the birth of a wooly mammoth that is as faithful to the original as is humanly possible.

Talk of cloning a mammoth began not long after scientists learned how to actually do cloning—mammoth carcasses have been found in very cold places which preserved remains, which of course, included DNA. But not everyone has been onboard with the idea—some claim it is stepping into God's territory, others suggest it seems ridiculous considering all of the species that are nearing extinction, including those of elephants. Why not use those financial resources that are now going towards bringing back something that has gone extinct, to saving those that are still here?

The technique the team is using is called Crispr, it allows for reproducing exact copies of genes—in this case 14 mammoth genes, which are then inserted into elephant genes. As Church explains, the team prioritizes which genes are replicated and inserted, based on such factors as hairiness, ear size, and , which the animal needed to survive in its harsh cold environment.

Not clear as yet is when or if the team at Harvard has plans to produce an actual living mammoth, or if they will leave that to other teams working on similar projects.


Explore further

40,000-year-old blood brings mammoth cloning closer

© 2015 Phys.org

Citation: Researchers take another step in bringing back a wooly mammoth (2015, March 23) retrieved 27 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-03-wooly-mammoth.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
154 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Mar 23, 2015
We did the political equivalent in the Reagan Years.

Mar 23, 2015
Isn't it, w-o-o-l-l-y mammoth?

Mar 23, 2015
Please, no saber-toothed squirrels. The modern ones are troublesome enough.

Mar 23, 2015
There's absolutely no reason to bring back the mammoth. It went extinct for a reason. And just because we can, is not good enough. What will happen once it's brought back from extinction? Will it be a pet, or food, or a beast of burden? Perhaps a novelty in a zoo? Who will take care of it/them? Taxpayers, most likely. It's like a child with a new puppy who abandons it when full grown and the novelty wears off.

Mar 23, 2015
I think this would be WAY cool to do...
We might garner some insight into their world (our own history)

Mar 23, 2015
Who's funding this, McDonalds?

Mar 23, 2015
This is so cool. I would love to see a real live mammoth in my lifetime
Then get your religionist buddies to stop resisting it.

It's funny - we've been creating artificial life forms ever since we learned how to domesticate. But since the bible says god made cattle and corn, because Cain was a farmer and Abel was a herder, then they're somehow natural in the eyes of a typical religionist.

One thing they're even less comfortable with is the notion that humans are the product of domestication - a few hundred millenia of selecting for individuals who could deny their animal proclivities in return for living in tribes with all their unnatural requirements for surrendering repro rights, fighting outsiders on cue, and believing that their leaders are endorsed by gods and so are infallible.

But since we've been tinkering with our genes for so long by traditional means it should be no big deal to do it at the genetic level now that we are able.

Mar 23, 2015
it went extinct for a reason
Yeah because humans killed it off. And so we should have no compunctions about bringing it back.

But since natural selection is pretty much ended, and ecosystems are awash with invasive species meaning that none of them are stable any more, the world must from here on in be managed as a park. Future tech will enable us to seek out and eradicate the most troublesome, but this stewardship will be a continuous effort.

One way to restabilize ecologies already disrupted by prehistoric man, is to reintroduce these species that he has already eradicated.

As far as where're they can live, Russia is already building a park.
http://www.pleist...k.ru/en/

Mar 23, 2015
IMHO, "invasive" species are invasive for the same reason the woolly mammoth is extinct - human interference. Humans can't leave well enough alone so they have been introducing species into new areas at a frequency unprecedented in the historical record. Instead of trying to eradicate species native to planet Earth, we should study how new species are integrated into an existing ecosystem over time (and they DO integrate - witness how biota develop on new barren volcanic isles) - we might learn something more than that old Us vs.Them paradigm that seems to be the favorite, even among "invasion biology" scientists.

Mar 23, 2015
"Future tech will enable us to seek out and eradicate the most troublesome, but this stewardship will be a continuous effort."
--------------------------------------------

I have to disagree with the wisdom of that: Mankind has not shown the intelligence and maturity to act for the long-term, tending to act out of excitement or emotion, and not rational thought of secondary or tertiary consequences.

Mar 23, 2015
Ah, perfect timing, for the coming Ice Age to freeze them into extinction again.

cjn
Mar 23, 2015
As someone passionate about genetics and biology, I find this to be incredibly interesting and would love to see this actualized.

As an observer, I have to wonder what the h*ll we're going to do with a woolly mammoth population. Unless, of course, they were hunted to extinction because they taste like ambrosia from the gods. In that case, I had better buy a bigger grill in anticipation!

Mar 23, 2015
Who's funding this, McDonalds?

More like Ted Turner...:-) (His restaurant serves bison)

I wrote a screenplay for "Northern Exposure" back in the 90's. One of the several storylines was about how someone had found a frozen mammoth and the whole town of Cicely was preparing for a big barbecue party...
They were preparing to buy it, but got canceled just prior... (to writing the check, apparently)
BTW - it was only a story - NOT a theory....:-)

Mar 23, 2015
Their work is yet another step towards that ultimate goal, realizing the birth of a wooly mammoth that is as faithful to the original as is humanly possible.


Shouldn't that be "as is elephantly possible" ? :)

Mar 23, 2015
They'd better hurry up before elephants are extinct too.

Mar 23, 2015
This effort might be viewed as an attempt to bring back a species that was probably made extinct by the hunting of or ancestors. I think that it is a well-meaning act in the sense that we will be attempting to undo the cost of the rise of humanity, although they will not be precisely what went extinct. More importantly, it is a goal of genetic achievement that is being funded. We will need this sort of technology and knowledge in the future to bring back some of what will go extinct in the possible future ecological disaster that is ocean acidification, or the peaking of the trajectory of human domination and environmental destruction we seem to be illogically striving towards.

Mar 23, 2015
They should concentrate on saving the elephants that are alive now and the elephants quality of life, not the Mammoth. What are they thinking about, their tusks?!

Mar 23, 2015
I would also prefer Investigations for Size Genes and Reducing the size of Elephant to that of a Rabbit; Some Humans are born as Dwarfs OR Pretty Tall. Rabbits are bigger than Mice. Horses are bigger than Donkeys.Dog Breeds vary enormously in size. They are sure to find the cause for size changes, if they do put their mind to it.
Once they succeed, they can make Rabbits the size of Elephants & Salmon the Size of Whales, Gigantic Chicken etc in due course...particularly, the Non-Mammals that do not need Uterus for development.

Mar 23, 2015
If you are curious about Crispr Technique , Do Google News Search for "New DNA construct can set off a mutagenic chain reaction" and see how the world is doomed!
Actually, it is a way for Humans to turn into Gods, though; 2 Sides for the same Coin.

Mar 23, 2015
If you are curious about Crispr Technique , Do Google News Search for "New DNA construct can set off a mutagenic chain reaction" and see how the world is doomed!
Actually, it is a way for Humans to turn into Gods, though; 2 Sides for the same Coin.

Read "Tall tale: scientists unravel the genetics of human height". Almost all White Women are Taller than Asian Males!

Mar 23, 2015
If you are curious about Crispr Technique , Do Google News Search for "New DNA construct can set off a mutagenic chain reaction" and see how the world is doomed!
Actually, it is a way for Humans to turn into Gods, though; 2 Sides for the same Coin.

Read "Tall tale: scientists unravel the genetics of human height". Almost all White Women are Taller than Asian Males!

Compare it to a situation in 2007 when we knew absolutely nothing about the genes and regions of the human genome involved in normal height differences despite everyone knowing height is very strongly genetic.

Mar 24, 2015
Isn't it, w-o-o-l-l-y mammoth?
@Uba
yes
https://en.wikipe..._mammoth

Who's funding this, McDonalds?
@surayabay
can't be McD's... too much meat, not enough soy, filler or "etc"...LOL

"New DNA construct can set off a mutagenic chain reaction" and see how the world is doomed!
@betterex
wtf?
you do know that we lived alongside the Woolly mammoth and ate them (or at the very least, killed them) right?


Mar 24, 2015
"Future tech will enable us to seek out and eradicate the most troublesome, but this stewardship will be a continuous effort."
--------------------------------------------

I have to disagree with the wisdom of that: Mankind has not shown the intelligence and maturity to act for the long-term, tending to act out of excitement or emotion, and not rational thought of secondary or tertiary consequences.

It doesn't matter how wise it is; we've already opened the bottle by spreading everything everywhere. We have no choice but to manage it at this point, if we as a species are to survive. We broke it; we bought it...

Mar 24, 2015
I would also prefer Investigations for Size Genes and Reducing the size of Elephant to that of a Rabbit; Some Humans are born as Dwarfs OR Pretty Tall. Rabbits are bigger than Mice. Horses are bigger than Donkeys.Dog Breeds vary enormously in size. They are sure to find the cause for size changes, if they do put their mind to it.
Once they succeed, they can make Rabbits the size of Elephants & Salmon the Size of Whales, Gigantic Chicken etc in due course...particularly, the Non-Mammals that do not need Uterus for development.

Thanks! I needed a laugh; it's been a rough day.

Mar 24, 2015
We should be devoting our resources to bringing back unicorns and giant penguins. They are more important, don't you think?

BSD
Mar 24, 2015
Who's funding this, McDonalds?


Heh :P

Mar 24, 2015
"Future tech will enable us to seek out and eradicate the most troublesome, but this stewardship will be a continuous effort."
--------------------------------------------

I have to disagree with the wisdom of that: Mankind has not shown the intelligence and maturity to act for the long-term, tending to act out of excitement or emotion, and not rational thought of secondary or tertiary consequences.

It doesn't matter how wise it is; we've already opened the bottle by spreading everything everywhere. We have no choice but to manage it at this point, if we as a species are to survive. We broke it; we bought it...
Gkam is a human hater like he is a truth hater. Because both tend to expose his bullshit and make him feel... mundane.

Mar 24, 2015
Does everybody see this otto-guy make a fool of himself in his need to hurt others? I do not understand it. He is the guy who also thinks all engineers do the same thing. Really.

He does not understand my job as and Electrionic Engineer making integrated circuits was nothing like being a Plant Engineer in an iron foundry making engine blocks for 10,500 hp engines, or one in the plastics industry making buckets and heat-shrink plastics, or one in Technical Services of the biggest non-governmental power company on Earth.

I do not know what otto did, but we all know what he didn't do - all of the above.

Mar 24, 2015
Why do we need to try and bring back a creature that is extinct because of us hunting them into extinction? We are doing the same thing NOW to the mammoth's living relatives the Asian and African elephants. We cant keep them alive now.
And I bet the ivory poachers are drooling as they look at those ivory tusks hanging down on that animal.
We need to learn to take care of what we have before we add any more. (I doubt we will ever learn though.)

Mar 24, 2015
Does everybody see this otto-guy make a fool of himself in his need to hurt others? I do not understand it. He is the guy who also thinks all engineers do the same thing. Really.

He does not understand my job as and Electrionic Engineer making integrated circuits was nothing like being a Plant Engineer in an iron foundry making engine blocks for 10,500 hp engines, or one in the plastics industry making buckets and heat-shrink plastics, or one in Technical Services of the biggest non-governmental power company on Earth.

I do not know what otto did, but we all know what he didn't do - all of the above.
But they all have one thing in common - you were never an engineer while you were allegedly doing them because, by your own admission you have neither the degree, the proper experience, nor a PE. So youve been kidding yourself all these years.

Please stop trying to kid the people here by claiming to be one.

Mar 25, 2015
I wonder if they can get Jesus' DNA from the shroud of turin and bring him back. Then we can prove once and for all if he's as magical as Harry Potter.

Mar 25, 2015
They already did that. The dna was from Jimmy Hoffa.

Mar 26, 2015
xstos: The answer is no, human cloning is not possible at this time. And your comment is 100% ignorant. Your clone would not be you. Just a younger biological brother.

Mar 26, 2015
xstos: The answer is no, human cloning is not possible at this time. And your comment is 100% ignorant. Your clone would not be you. Just a younger biological brother.

LIghten up, Francis.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more