Woolly mammoth DNA may lead to a resurrection of the ancient beast
Technical and ethical challenges abound after first hurdle of taking cells from millennia-old bodies is cleared
The pioneering scientist who created Dolly the sheep has outlined how cells plucked from frozen woolly mammoth carcasses might one day help resurrect the ancient beasts.
The notional procedure – bringing with it echoes of the Jurassic Park films – was spelled out by Sir Ian Wilmut, the Edinburgh-based stem-cell scientist, whose team unveiled Dolly as the world’s first cloned mammal in 1996.
Though it is unlikely that a mammoth could be cloned in the same way as Dolly, more modern techniques that convert tissue cells into stem cells could potentially achieve the feat, Wilmut says in an article today for the academic journalism website, The Conversation.
"I’ve always been very sceptical about the whole idea, but it dawned on me that if you could clear the first hurdle of getting viable cells from mammoths, you might be able to do something useful and interesting," Wilmut told the Guardian.
"I think it should be done as long as we can provide great care for the animal. If there are reasonable prospects of them being healthy, we should do it. We can learn a lot about them," he added.
Woolly mammoths roamed the Earth tens of thousands of years ago in a period called the late Pleistocene. Their numbers began to fall in North America and on mainland Eurasia about 10,000 years ago. Some lived on for a further 6,000 years. Their demise was likely the result of hunting and environmental change.
The prospect of raising woolly mammoths from the dead has gathered pace in recent years as the number of frozen bodies recovered from the Siberian permafrost has soared. The rise comes because the ice is melting, but also because of awareness in the region that there is money in the ancient remains. (via Woolly mammoth DNA may lead to a resurrection of the ancient beast | Science | The Guardian)