The lives and eventual extinction of the prehistoric giants that roamed the Earth's surface, thousands of years ago, has always fascinated researchers. However, it is impossible to recreate most of them, either because the fossilized DNA is too old (dinosaurs) or just not available. But the one exception may be the Woolly Mammoth, that lived during the Ice Age, about 8,000 years ago.
Thanks to their relatively recent demise and the ice-cold weather they lived in, there have been plenty of well-preserved specimens discovered, especially in the Arctic North. In the last few years, scientists have been able to piece together the mammal's genetic code using some frozen hair and also recreate its blood, with the help of the DNA that was found preserved in the bone. Now, a group of Japanese scientists wants to take it one step further and bring this mighty mammal back to life.
The team of scientists, led by Akira Iritani, professor emeritus at Japan's Kyoto University, plan to start with a trek to the Siberian permafrost this summer, to seek out the DNA from a flash frozen specimen of the mammal. In case they are unable to find one, they will use the tissue of a preserved mammoth that currently sits in a Russian laboratory
The scientists will then extract the DNA from the sample and inject it into an empty egg of the mammoth's closest present day relative - The elephant. Then, by zapping an electric current into it, they will trick the egg to grow and divide just like a real embryo. After it has matured for a few days, the researchers will implant it inside the womb of a female elephant, which will act as a surrogate mother.
Then begins the waiting game - for it takes about 600 days, for an elephant or in this case a Woolly Mammoth baby, to fully mature - that is, if everything goes well and the surrogate mother doesn't reject the implanted egg. Even if completely successful at first try, which given past experiences is highly unlikely, the scientists are not sure if and how they would breed more, or if they would even display the one specimen to the public.
If by some miracle we do have a baby mammoth in our midst, scientists are hoping they will be able to study it and answer the age-old question of how they became extinct in the first place - Were they hunted down by humans or did they die because of the climate change?
Will the mighty Woolly Mammoth come back to life? Check back with us in about five years for that's the time-frame the scientists are targeting for the first successful clone of this majestic pre-historic mammal.
Sources:pospsci.com, dailymail.co.uk news.yahoo.com