De-Extinction -Woolly Mammoth Genes Spliced Into Living Cells

Last Update: March 30, 2015

Researchers led by George Church at Harvard University have copied and pasted into the genome of an Asian elephant, genes from a frozen woolly mammoth remains, a species that went extinct around 4,000 years ago. The tissue cultures represent the first time woolly mammoth genes have been functional since the species went extinct

They spliced the genes for the mammoths’ small ears, subcutaneous fat, and hair length and color into the DNA of elephant skin cells in tissue cultures using a DNA editing tool called CRISPR.

The recent breakthrough

A process called "de-extinction", is part of an ongoing effort to bring extinct species back from the dead. The method of splicing genes from extinct animals into the genomes of their living relatives, one proposed de-extinction procedure, may possibly work. We also want to read out the phenotypes,” Church said, because just making a DNA change isn't that meaningful.

The team hopes to turn the elephant/mammoth skin cells into hybrid embryos that can be grown in artificial wombs. Speculative at this point, but the alternative--implanting the hybrids into the wombs of female elephants, is distasteful to animal rights activists and geneticists alike. “It’s going to be more humane and easier if we can set up hundreds of embryos in an incubator and run tests,” says Church.

Woolly mammoth cloning is not available just yet, there’s a lot more research to be done explained Church and the research has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal because of the ongoing work, Church told the U.K.’s Sunday Times, "but we plan to do so.”

It's possible that the creatures will only remain elephant/mammoth hybrids. But if it looks like a mammoth and fulfills the same ecological functions as a mammoth, is it a mammoth?

Consequences

Not mentioned here is the fact that Woolly mammoth's lived and grazed in the Arctic some 15,000 to 50,000 years ago, in a different time with different plant flora and animal fauna.

Scientific studies have uncovered while analyzing the DNA of plants preserved in the permafrost during the ice age, that the Arctic landscape was not a bleak, grassy prairie at all, but had a lush cover of small, nutritious plants called forbs – "things like poppies and buttercups and anemones, little flowering plants,"

And those plants might have been higher in proteins and other nutrients that were very important to sustaining the populations of large mammals."

The vegetation in the Acrtic changed dramatically around 10,000 years ago, when it grew warmer and wetter, giving rise to the tundra we know today, dominated by grasses and woody plants.

How can we know the consequences of this action on a sensitive environment, and to modern animal life. I believe much more research still needs to be done in this area of study, before science brings back The Woolly Mammoth from Extinction.

I'm not really sure of the why do it part- maybe because they can?

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CathyS Premium
I guess something like this was inevitable ... but still, as human beings, the people doing this can never create ... they can only mimic the creation of God. Funny, but in their minds, I've got to believe they believe they are "creating" ... gee ... what a rush to think of yourself as The Creator. And how blasphemous. There's all kinds of "what if" scenarios, but I don't think that we, for even a second, should mess with God's handiwork. Just my two cents worth, too...
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TJRANDO Premium
Cathy good to hear from you-Like I mentioned to Steve, I am not sure of the why of it or the ramifications- Much more studies in my opinion need to be done. I'm not sure of the religious aspects of such a project so cannot comment on that.
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steveo5770 Premium
You have to ask yourself (or the people involved) what they hope to learn from this experiment and what is its potential usefulness?
People will undoubtedly compare this GMO's which we have been taught that we are supposed to fear.

Just because you don't understand how something works doesn't necessitate that it's part of conspiracy designed to destroy us. Insulin, which sufferers of diabetes need to survive on a daily basis, is made from genetically modified bacteria. Tell THEM that all GMO's are bad.

What I'm saying is, it depends on the end goal. If it's strictly for commercial gain, I think it's distasteful. Just my 2 cents :)
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TJRANDO Premium
Hi Steve-That is a great question and is mine as well, the "why" of it. They are not too clear on their goals from what I could decipher other than a scientific accompolishment. I would love to see a live Woolly Mammoth, however I believe that the ramifications need to be studied further as stated in my post.
GMO's on the other hand are another huge topic that you and I have differing opinions.
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WKnoepp Premium
The timing is about right. The planet is cycling back to that time - giving the panic stricken global warrners a lot to holler about.
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TJRANDO Premium
Hi Werner- Global warming is a whole other topic. Whether it is man made or a cycle of nature or both, is yet to be fully determined.
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WKnoepp Premium
It will cycle no matter what we do - provided this planet fails to protect itself from the overpopulation it is experiencing now. I don't like the prospect of the planet protecting itself.
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Dfishell Premium
Jurasic Park in the making! Personally, I think it is wrong for people to play "God" and I think you hit it on the head when you say it is "because they can". Under the guise of finding ways to help people is usually how they get buy-in from the public. Just like GMO, which has gone forward without enough study done prior to releasing it and the dire are now becoming evident. Sadly, can't go backwards...too late.
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TJRANDO Premium
Hi Debbie-I agree much more research on this needs to be done, but the lingering question for me is why are they wanting to do it in the first place?
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Dfishell Premium
Money is usually the goal...
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booklover2 Premium
What if they come up with something they can't get rid of, what if Hitler had been successful with his perfect soldier....it's not nice to fool with mother nature! lol!
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TJRANDO Premium
Hi Juli- Yes the consequences are never completely known.
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