Ever since the SCI-FI movie “Jurassic Park” came out and many people are almost convinced that the bringing back dinosaurs or extinct species back to life is possible and can be done soon
The scientific community hasn’t given up on the Idea either but it’s not that easy as people think, and explained the scientific problems in the concept and how it needs more research and tech to be achieved if ever
And at every turn there is development in the cloning area there glimmers of hopes that rise again.
Until recently at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston in Feb 2017, the scientist leading the “de-extinction” effort said the Harvard team is just couple of years away from creating a hybrid embryo, in which Mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant
Everyone thought the dream is coming to reality and we would see Mammoth walk on earth again, and headlines was Mammoth resurrection in 2 years
Is true? Will we see the Might beast in 2 years restored to the natural balance?
Let’s check the details that the team announced before we say anything
Prof George Church the geneticist leading the Harvard team said that we are working on the genetic materials found in the hair of 2 mammoths found preserved in ice in Siberia several years ago. One mammoth died about 20,000 years ago, and the other died 60,000 years ago. (Mammoths flourished on the ice-age tundra, died after the glaciers melted about 10,000 years ago. A few holdouts survived on Wrangel Island off Siberia until about 3,700 years ago)
“We already know about ones to do with small ears, subcutaneous fat, hair and blood, but there are others that seem to be positively selected” said Church, as they are not working on cloning the whole DNA they are only isolating the main important and significant traits of the Mammoth, so they can create a
Mammoth-Elephant hybrid, and to be specific Asian Elephants as Mammoths considered their evolutionary ancestors
The mammoth genes for these traits are spliced into the elephant DNA using the powerful gene-editing tool, Crispr. Since starting the project in 2015 the researchers have increased the number of “edits” where mammoth DNA has been spliced into the elephant genome from 15 to 45
So the main target of the project is to breed a new hybrid to achieve 2 main points, surprisingly Mammoth resurrection is not one of them;
• To save the endangered Asian Elephant species, by adding traits helping them to adjust to cold weather so they can populate more regions away from human population and its troubles and conlicts
• Help fighting the global warming, as Prof. Church explained “They keep the tundra from thawing by punching through snow and allowing cold air to come in, in the summer they knock down trees and help the grass grows.”
As for resurrecting the Mammoth with same full traits, according to Prof. Church it’s still a long way down there but this project could be a start down the road
Another interesting point of debate with this project, how are you going to grow the Hybrid Mammoth-Elephant Embryo?
Many would suggest in a female Asian-Elephant, but that’s not the plan. Asian Elephants are endangered species and the outcome of the experiment is 100% secure, and many female could be needed and their survival will be endangered
The team is working to grow the embryo in the lab; the concept is “Artificial womb”, yet it’s still not fully developed and the embryos of mice used to try it only survived for 10 days (half of the gestational period), and note that when this concept comes to life it may be more important revelation than the birth of the the new hybrid Mammoth-Elephant
If the 1st hybrid result is successful it could be used to breed generation closer in the genetic material to the Mammoth and could be helpful after 2 or 3 generations in the process of cloning directly
Note that there is a Chinese team of scientists working on cloning the mammoth directly but there is no data or promising results yet, because of the lack of genetic materials
So in conclusion the project is not a bout resurrecting the Mammoth, but it’s a promising step along the way