Biomedicine Update – Cloning the Woolly Mammoth a Step Closer to Reality

Scientists from Russia and South Korea are hell-bent on recreating the Woolly Mammoth, an animal that has been extinct for more than 10,000 years.

The North-Eastern Federal University of the Sakha Republic in Russia and South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation are combining their research efforts to recreate the extinct animal using an Indian Elephant female as surrogate. This consortium of scientists are not the only ones in the race. Japanese scientists along with Americans and Russians have been in pursuit of a Mammoth clone and expect to see the creature reborn by 2016.

Woolly Mammoth remains have been pulled out of the Siberian permafrost for several years. The current challenge is to harvest viable genetic material from these remains. That means finding an undamaged nuclei from Mammoth remains and replacing the nucleus of a host somatic cell from an elephant.

The Woolly Mammoth roamed Siberia and North America throughout the Pleistocene only to go extinct 10,000 years ago. As permafrost melts because of a warming planet the remains of these creatures have led scientists to consider recreating the species.

With a culture of Mammoth somatic cells, researchers could then create embryos that could be implanted into the surrogate.

As I have reported in an earlier blog on the subject of cloning, South Korean scientists have created cloned animals including a dog, cat, cow, pig, coyote and wolf.

Does recreating the Woolly Mammoth mean we can restore the species? Potentially, but this foray into cloning an extinct animal may lead to attempts to recreate other lost species as long as there is viable DNA that can be recovered. Jurassic Park – are we there yet? Not likely. Finding viable dinosaur DNA even preserved in the gut of mosquitos trapped in amber is remotely possible to say the most.

Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...