Woolly mammoths, who roamed the earth back during the ice age periods might once again see the light of the day, according to a Harvard cloning scientist. George Church from Harvard University has come up with a cloning project that might be able to grow a baby mammoth in a lab.
This ambitious project will rely on DNA recovered from a woolly mammoth preserved perfectly in the icy terrain of Siberia.
This plan is also supposed to improve Arctic climates because the mammoths would stimulate the growth of vegetation, as per Church. The team is planning to grow a hybrid elephant mammoth in an artificial womb. The resultant creature will be a cross between the Asian elephant and the woolly mammoth.
This cloning process is expected to take almost two years, and if successful the woolly mammoths created would live in a 20,000 hectare Ice Age safari park in remote Siberia, called Pleistocene Park.
The Harvard researchers are using a gene-editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9. This method allows the scientists to literally ‘cut and paste’ strands of mammoth DNA into an Asian elephant embryo. Genetic editing has been around for a while, but this new technique offers much higher levels of precision.
We have already revived dozens of genes and are testing them in elephant cells. We are focusing on a reviving mammoth genes and making a mammoth/elephant hybrid and help them spread to vast wild, arctic climates.
The team of scientists expects that the woolly mammoths will allow them to to save our planet, by preventing the Siberian permafrost from melting. This would otherwise release tons of greenhouse gases, thereby accelerating the process of global warming, leading to flooding and melting of ice-caps at the poles. This phenomena has been dubbed as the “Methane bomb”.
Cold-resistant elephants would flatten the insulating snow and supporting trees in winter and favour the highly heat reflective grass in summer.They would also help capture new carbon by enhancing the photosynthetic capacity of the vegetation.
As per Church, the woolly mammoths once repopulated in the coldest areas would help to “lock in” the green house gases. Methane, one of the primary greenhouse gases, often lies trapped beneath the permafrost. The melting of this ice would cause an overload of methane in the atmosphere. This has already happened in certain regions, and a multitude of craters in Russia are on the brink of spewing Methane gas into the air, threatening the heath of the eco-system.
This is somewhat similar to what the scientists did in the hit Steven Spielberg film, Jurassic Park. It is rather astonishing to think man is not advanced enough to revive extinct organisms. The consequences of this new technique will be far reaching and the field of genetic modification (or gene editing) is sure to get even more developed with time. Do you think there’ll be a time when we’ll be able to finally resurrect dinosaurs or any other ancient beings?
What kind of impact will this have on the already existing species if this ambitious plan to revive the woolly mammoth succeeds. Will they be affected adversely or will the woolly mammoths not survive in today’s world. How will the eco-system on a whole be affected. Let’s not get ahead of overselves. This project is expected to take 2 years, and if something exciting comes up, we’ll be sure to update you.