Woolly mammoth 2.0 could be walking the Earth within 10 years

Posted February 21, 2017

"Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo", researcher George Church, who leads the tream, told The Guardian.

Church and his team hope to splice specific mammoth genes that are responsible for traits like small ears, long hair and blood adapted to cold weather, and blend it with Asian elephant DNA.
"We're not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years".

After beginning the project in 2015, the team has been increasing the number of gene "edits" or splices into the elephant's genome with mammoth DNA from 15 to 45.

It was one of the most best preserved remains ever found with tusks almost three metres long and was discovered among a treasure trove of mammoth remains in the pit.

It's been thousands of years since the woolly mammoths were wiped out from the earth. How would the introduction of a mammophant or a woolly mammoth affect elephants and other animals?

But the trials won't end there.

Until now, the team have stopped at the cell stage, but are now moving towards creating embryos - although, they said that it would be many years before any serious attempt at producing a living creature. Matthew Cobb, professor of zoology at the University of Manchester, told The Guardian, "The proposed "de-extinction" of mammoths raises a massive ethical issue-the mammoth was not simply a set of genes, it was a social animal, as is the modern Asian elephant".

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Asian elephants are endangered, making it impractical - and to some minds unethical - to try using living elephants as surrogates for any mammoth embryo. When they disappeared, the grasslands became covered by forest and tundra, which insulate and keep the ground below warmer relative to the winter temperature above.

While such behavior could help keep greenhouses gasses locked in the permafrost, we'd need to get pretty good at mammophant cloning to bring back enough of the beasts to populate Canada and Siberia.

But more than that, the revival of the woolly mammoth could actually nullify the concept of extinction altogether.

However, not everybody in the science world agrees with the experiment. Animals have a way of holding on - they can experience rapid declines and then somehow continue to exist in numbers that hardly constitute a population and yet continue to be there. The mammoths went completely extinct 3,000 to 4,000 years ago.

Using CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system, researchers plan to coax the now-extinct animal's traits out of elephant cells. But what's the sense of birthing new elephants if their habitat remains destroyed?

As for why we would want to bring back the woolly mammoth, Church says the move could secure an alternative future for endangered Asian elephant, and could also help combat global warming.