A group of researchers is getting closer to bringing the extinct woolly mammoth back to life. Geneticist George Church’s lab at Harvard University successfully copied genes from frozen woolly mammoths and pasted them into the genome of an Asian elephant.
Over 3,000 years after the mammoth went extinct, scientists have successfully brought to live mammoth cells in a lab, they said yesterday. Scientists have replicated the genes that make elephants different from mammoths — their hairiness, bigger ears and fat beneath their skin — and successfully inserted them into an elephant’s code.
Professor Alex Greenwood, an ancient DNA expert, told The Telegraph: “We face the potential extinction of African and Asian elephants. Why bring back another elephantid from extinction when we cannot even keep the ones that are not extinct around?
The living cells represent the first time that mammoth genes have been alive since they went extinct roughly 3,300 years ago. The last of the species lived on an island in the Arctic Ocean, and scientists took genes from there for the experiment.
Some scientists are against using elephants to potentially bring back the woolly mammoths. Professor Alex Greenwood told “Why bring back another elephantid from extinction when we cannot even keep the ones that are not extinct around? What is the message? We can be as irresponsible with the environment as we want. Then we’ll just clone things back?”
“We made 14 edits in the elephant genome, not changing every bit of each gene. We are testing ideas about cold-resistance genes in cells, not elephants,” he told.