Baby woolly mammoth clone expected to arrive within six years

mammoth clone

A new technique gives scientists hope they can create a baby woolly mammoth clone from frozen tissue found in Russian permafrost. Image: CC radim99/Flickr

A woolly mammoth clone could be born within six years if an international team of scientists reaches its goal. The scientists will attempt to grow a mammoth clone with cells taken from the carcass of a baby mammoth found preserved in Russian permafrost. Previous attempts to clone a mammoth have failed, but researchers are betting on a new technique pioneered by a Japanese biologist for cloning mammals from frozen tissue.

How to create a mammoth clone

A woolly mammoth clone has a reasonable chance to become reality, according to a team of scientists from Japan, Russia and the U.S. Their optimism is based on the success of a technique developed by Dr. Teruhiko Wakayama for cloning mice from cells frozen for 16 years. Cell nuclei from tissue samples used in previous mammoth clone projects had been damaged by ice crystals. But researchers can now use a technique developed by Wakayama for identifying and extracting viable nuclei using a tissue sample obtained from a Russian mammoth research lab. The mammoth nuclei will be implanted into the fertilized egg of an African elephant to create an embryo with mammoth DNA.

Bringing up a baby woolly mammoth

Scientists working on the mammoth clone expect to have a viable embryo within two years. A female African elephant will then be impregnated with the mammoth embryo by U.S. in vitro fertilization experts. The gestation period for an African elephant is nearly two years. Team leader Akira Iritani, a professor emeritus of Kyoto University, said the baby woolly mammoth would be studied to learn more about why the species became extinct about 10,000 years ago. If the creature survives, it will grow to be about two-thirds the size of a male African elephant.

Russian permafrost a mammoth mother lode

The woolly mammoth inhabited parts of North America and Eurasia before dying out during the most recent ice age about 5,000 years ago. The combination of a warming trend that began about 12,000 years ago, along with a growing population of human hunters are believed to be the reason for the woolly mammoth’s extinction. Most of the preserved carcasses have been discovered in Siberia, where fossils from an estimated 150 million mammoths remain frozen in permafrost.



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