Researchers aim to resurrect mammoth in five years

Researchers aim to resurrect mammoth in five years MNHN Bibliotheque
Centrale – Artist's impression of the prehistoric mammoth. Japanese
researchers will launch a project this year …

    * Prehistoric mammoths Slideshow:Prehistoric mammoths

by Shingo Ito Shingo Ito – Mon Jan 17, 5:44 am ET

TOKYO (AFP) – Japanese researchers will launch a project this year to
resurrect the long-extinct mammoth by using cloning technology to
bring the ancient pachyderm back to life in around five years time.

The researchers will try to revive the species by obtaining tissue
this summer from the carcass of a mammoth preserved in a Russian
research laboratory, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

"Preparations to realise this goal have been made," Akira Iritani,
leader of the team and a professor emeritus of Kyoto University, told
the mass-circulation daily.

[Related: Scientists find living 34,000-year-old organism]

Under the plan, the nuclei of mammoth cells will be inserted into an
elephant's egg cell from which the nuclei have been removed, to create
an embryo containing mammoth genes, the report said.

The embryo will then be inserted into an elephant's uterus in the hope
that the animal will eventually give birth to a baby mammoth.

Click image to see more mammoth photos


The elephant is the closest modern relative of the mammoth, a huge
woolly mammal believed to have died out with the last Ice Age.

Some mammoth remains still retain usable tissue samples, making it
possible to recover cells for cloning, unlike dinosaurs, which
disappeared around 65 million years ago and whose remains exist only
as fossils

Researchers hope to achieve their aim within five to six years, the
Yomiuri said.

The team, which has invited a Russian mammoth researcher and two US
elephant experts to join the project, has established a technique to
extract DNA from frozen cells, previously an obstacle to cloning
attempts because of the damage cells sustained in the freezing

Another Japanese researcher, Teruhiko Wakayama of the Riken Centre for
Developmental Biology, succeeded in 2008 in cloning a mouse from the
cells of another that had been kept in temperatures similar to frozen
ground for 16 years.

The scientists extracted a cell nucleus from an organ of a dead mouse
and planted it into the egg of another mouse which was alive, leading
to the birth of the cloned mouse.

Based on Wakayama's techniques, Iritani's team devised a method to
extract the nuclei of mammoth eggs without damaging them.

But a successful cloning will also pose challenges for the team, Iritani warned.

"If a cloned embryo can be created, we need to discuss, before
transplanting it into the womb, how to breed (the mammoth) and whether
to display it to the public," Iritani said.

"After the mammoth is born, we will examine its ecology and genes to
study why the species became extinct and other factors."

[Discovery: Tiny dinosaur set stage for T. rex]

More than 80 percent of all mammoth finds have been dug up in the
permafrost of the vast Sakha Republic in eastern Siberia.

Exactly why a majority of the huge creatures that once strode in large
herds across Eurasia and North America died out towards the end of the
last Ice Age has generated fiery debate.

Some experts hold that mammoths were hunted to extinction by the
species that was to become the planet's dominant predator -- humans.

Others argue that climate change was more to blame, leaving a species
adapted for frozen climes ill-equipped to cope with a warming world.

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