Japanese scientist and Russian team intend to clone a mammoth

Skeleton of Columbian mammoth. (Wikimedia Commons)

The woolly mammoth has been extinct for about 10,000 years. But if a research team is successful, there’ll soon be a mammoth walking the earth again.

A Japanese scientist named Akira Iritani and a team of scientists from Russia and the U.S. are preparing to clone a healthy mammoth within five or six years.

They intend to resurrect the species by cloning tissue from the long-frozen carcass of a mammoth found in Siberia. Afterwards, they’ll insert the nuclei of mammoth cells into an elephant’s egg cells from which the nuclei have been removed. The result will be an embryo containing mammoth genes.

Next, they’ll insert the embryo into the womb of a living elephant. The gestation period will last two years, after which – the team hopes – a baby mammoth will be born.

There’s been speculation about cloning mammoths among Russian and Japanese scientists for several years now, but some dismissed the notion, saying the whole cells required for cloning would have burst under the freezing conditions.

But using a technique pioneered in 2008, a Japanese scientist cloned of a mouse using cells from another mouse that had been frozen for 16 years. Scientists hope the same technique will work for the mammoth.

Mammoth remains have been found under Russia’s Siberian permafrost – some estimates say that 150 million mammoths are buried there. The researchers say that, if the clone survives, it may provide clues about why mammoth went extinct.

As Geekosystem said while reporting the story: “What can possibly go wrong?”


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