Wool mammoths ‘being brought back from extinction’ as scientists plan to use genes to create ‘Arctic elephant’

SCIENCES are working to bring the genes of woolly mammoths back from extinction and use them to create an “Arctic elephant.”

Mammoths completely disappeared from the earth about 4,000 years ago.

The most complete woolly mammoth specimen ever seen is on display in Chicago in 2010

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The most complete woolly mammoth specimen ever seen is on display in Chicago in 2010Credit: AP
A 3D rendering of a trio of woolly mammoths

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A 3D rendering of a trio of woolly mammothsCredit: Getty

Well-preserved specimens of the creatures, however, have been found in the Arctic permafrost, which scientists plan to use to bring back the extinct fighters.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School (HMS) are now working on combining DNA samples with Asian elephants to call the genes back from the dead, according to Newsweek.

They hope to be able to produce embryos of mammoth-like elephants in a few years.

Its ultimate goal is to produce an entire population of the animals.

The Asian elephant is the closest living to the woolly mammoth and is also facing an extinction battle.

Research believes that the mammoth’s cold – resistant genes can be combined with modern Asian elephants to allow them to live in colder areas.

The new elephant could then be used to restore Arctic environments.

HSE geneticist George Church explained that it may not be possible to create living mammoths from the genes right away.

Yet all living mammoth genes can still be used.

“We’re trying to eradicate genes,” he told Harvard Medical School News.

“In fact, the field has already done so with two genes that confer cold-resistant properties to organisms.

“The idea is certainly to introduce these and other genes into today’s elephants so that elephants can comfortably live in and restore Arctic environments,” he added.

Fighting climate change is one of the main reasons why Church, which helped found a company called Colossal to patent the necessary gene editing technology, has focused on bringing back the mammoth DNA.

“All elephant species are endangered,” he said.

“We are trying to give them new land in the Arctic that is far away from people who are the biggest sinners causing extinction.”

“An Arctic elephant is a better term,” he told The Times about the combination of elephant DNA with mammoth.

‘REDDER ARCTIC PERMAFROST’

Researcher believes that the “Arctic elephants” can also help slow the melting of Arctic permafrost.

Large amounts of carbon and methane are trapped under the Arctic permafrost, and once released, it can further exacerbate global warming.

Still, elephant-mammoth hybrids can trample on the new rapid tree growth that makes it harder for frost to penetrate the soil and freeze it.

If the permafrost could be saved, the carbon that lay beneath the surface would remain in place.

“Two-for-one is that not only would the elephants get a new homeland, but their homeland has a desperate need for environmental restoration and they can help,” Church explained.

“Moving genetically modified elephants to the Arctic provides an opportunity to bind or remove significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and to prevent more carbon from escaping.”

NEW FINANCING

Church had led a team of moonlighters working to revive mammoths for eight years before announcing his company Colossal in September 2021, according to the New York Times.

He first announced the work of creating the new animal in a public speech at the National Geographic Society in 2013.

The company has received $ 15 million in initial funding to conduct experiments in laboratories in Boston and Dallas.

“This is an important milestone for us,” Church said at the time.

“It’s going to make all the difference in the world.”

ETHICAL ISSUES

Some researchers have questioned whether it is ethical to bring the genes back to life and use it in this way.

“Projects involving genetic engineering often raise concerns about ‘playing God’ or meddling in nature,” Julian Koplin, a research fellow in biomedical ethics at the University of Melbourne, Australia, told Newsweek.

“In this case, however, the goal is to reintroduce mammoths into ecosystems that they used to exist in – which in my opinion resembles existing rewilding projects more than Frankenstein’s interference with nature.”

“There are tons of issues that everyone is going to encounter along the way,” Beth Shapiro, author of How to Clone a Mammoth, added to the New York Times.

“I’m personally excited about the project,” Koplin continued, however.

“It’s partly because – like everyone else – I love woolly mammoths, and partly because of what de-extinction technologies could do to our ability to repair some of the damage humans have done to biodiversity.

“As the consequences of climate change are potentially catastrophic, I think it’s worth taking all strategies that can help, seriously, including those that have a low chance of success or may seem far out.

“If the stakes are high enough, even a long shot is worth taking.”

‘CATASTROPHICAL ISSUES’

Other questions have also been raised about the uncertainty about how the new mammoth-elephant hybrid would behave.

“There is reason to be skeptical that the introduction of some mammoth genes into Asian elephants will result in them adopting the behavior of mammoths from thousands of years ago,” said Christopher Gyngell, also a research fellow in biomedical ethics at Murdoch Children’s Research. Institute, to Newsweek.

“Elephants, as well as humans, learn behaviors from their parents and the elderly … It is not clear that elephant-mammal hybrids will function as mammoths without established elderly living in the ecosystem.”

“It’s a great goal,” Gyngell said.

“Although this project uses new technologies, it pursues similar goals as other environmental projects … moreover, the melting of the Siberian permafrost is a serious global problem.

“Ambitious projects like this can be justified when trying to solve potentially catastrophic problems.”

A mammoth in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City

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A mammoth in the American Museum of Natural History in New York CityCredit: Getty

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