Siberian Discovery Could Bring Scientists Closer to Cloning Woolly Mammoth

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Warren Photographic / Getty

The woolly mammoth was basically a prehistoric boss

The key to cloning a woolly mammoth may be locked into the Siberian permafrost.

At least, that’s what scientists in the blustery Russian tundra are hoping. An international team from Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University recently found well-preserved remains, including some fur and bone marrow, during a paleontological research trip in the northeastern province of Yakutia.

(READ: The Woolly Mammoth’s Return? Scientists Plan to Clone Extinct Creature)

Russian newspaper Vzglyad talked to expedition leader Semyon Grigoriev, a North-Eastern Federal University professor, who said that the remains may still contain living cells, which would be vital to any cloning attempt. Previously-found clumps of woolly mammoth hair have allowed scientists to determine much of the extinct species’ genetic code, but have fielded no living cells.

Living cells are necessary for the Frankenstein-esque procedure that would produce a baby mammoth, according to Chris Norris, senior collection manager for vertebrate paleontology at Yale’s Peabody Museum. Only living cells contain an intact nucleus, complete with woolly mammoth DNA. Such a nucleus can be inserted into a elephant embryo — a technique pioneered by a group of Japanese researchers last year — and then coaxed into becoming a real, live mammoth clone.

While Gregoriev’s Korean colleagues are eager to clone a mammoth, he said they are willing to try cloning any fossil animals that they discover the right genetic material for.

(PHOTOS: The 15 cutest endangered animals in the world)

While it may take months to figure out what kind and quality of samples they can glean from the mammoth remains, Grigoriev told Reuters that it chances of finding living cells are pretty remote — but not impossible. Sub-zero temperatures are crucial for slowing the deterioration of living cells, and Siberia, with its year-round permafrost, is one of the best places to look for surviving mammoth cells.

Despite the warnings of Jurassic Park — that playing in God’s domain can quickly lead to large, sharp-toothed carnivores praying on unsuspecting amusement-park employees — scientists have recently been willing to entertain the possibility of bringing extinct species back to life. In 2010, European scientists futilely attempted to back-breed an extinct species of cattle.

But until scientists find living cells from a long-dead creature, or make a breakthrough that would allow them to clone up animals from a different kind of genetic material, we’ll have to get our woolly mammoth fix from Ray Romano in Ice Age. But hope springs eternal: just last week, prehistorians got excited about a mammoth tooth found by a San Francisco crane operator while excavating ground for the city’s new Central Station. Maybe all it will take is just the right discovery.

MORE: Free Woolly: The Race to Bring Extinct Mammoths in out of the Cold

72 comments
InfectedWooly
InfectedWooly

"I thought it was bad to repeat history"~INFETEDWOOFY

InfectedWooly
InfectedWooly

Hunt them again over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and 

InfectedWooly
InfectedWooly

WE CAN CLONE THEM KILL THEM AND THEN DO IT OVER AND OVER AGAIN and that equals infinite WOLLY, WOLLY WOOL

Rgarza42
Rgarza42

Lets say you are right , we clone a few woolies, then what ?  Why would we like to have them ? What would be the need to have them around ?

AndrewTheAngel
AndrewTheAngel

@Rgarza42 They want to keep it in captivity to test on it, and yes im completely with you here, I mean.... what if we do clone them? where would we keep them where we WON'T destroy the food chain and habitat...

Dentist Marketing
Dentist Marketing

Cloning the woolly mammoth sounds like a scary idea. Pretty soon, they'll probably think about cloning the T-Rex.  What do you think about having a modern-day Jurassic Park?

Vice-President Dink Cheney
Vice-President Dink Cheney

Why the crap are you idiots all arguing about God? One sure thing, you will never prove or disprove religion via the comment section of an article about frozen mammoth meat. Unless God Himself logs on to tell us mammoths were so grumpy He let 'em all go extinct on purpose, we're just going to be stuck theorizing. 

BugsOldChum
BugsOldChum

Alert to non-believers -- "playing in God's domain can quickly lead to large, sharp-toothed carnivores PRAYING on unsuspecting amusement-park employees..." and converting anyone not taking cover!!!  (These lousy spellers are always available for a chuckle or two.)

Doug Hodges
Doug Hodges

How can you put living cells in the same sentence with something that has been dead for 10's of thousands of years

Lebowski113
Lebowski113

Yeah, let's clone something that went extinct ages ago back into an ecosphere.  What could POSSIBLY go wrong?  I mean, besides everything.  Sorry, I love science and think it would be cool for about an hour.  Then we'll find out that half of North America is now allergic to it's dander and start dropping like flies, or mutant killer super-bugs will smell it and wake up from their 10k year slumber with eyes on being the next intelligent rulers of earth ...  or some such thing.

Talendria
Talendria

I think it's a bad idea too, although I couldn't say exactly why.  I don't think it's possible for an animal to have pathogens encoded in its DNA, so we're not at risk of some ancient virus or bacteria.  It just makes me nervous the way science leaps before it looks.

cpc65
cpc65

I can just see the Russians making thousands of clones and strapping rocket launchers to their tusks, a flamethrower to their trunks, gauss cannons on top of their heads and then parading them though Red Square. 

Andrew Almond
Andrew Almond

 lazer beams on their foreheads! lazer beams!

treblehook
treblehook

Glad to see we are trying to bring back a species that those great stewards of nature hunted to extinction.

JeffinIL
JeffinIL

How about trying to increase the populations of endangered species instead?

cpc65
cpc65

Not as much potential profit. Correcting the issues causing their extinction would cost the corporations too much money and they can't charge admission for it. 

Dachshunds are hot
Dachshunds are hot

So, where will the zoo exhibit be to house this specimen, Barrow, Alaska? It certainly wouldn't survive Brookfield zoo.

Andrewlh
Andrewlh

good timing with the arctic about to dissapear

Joe Kulka
Joe Kulka

"that playing in God’s domain can quickly lead to large, sharp-toothed

carnivores praying on unsuspecting amusement-park employees"

So the sharp-toothed carnivores were using amusement-park employees as prayer mats?

 

Andrewlh
Andrewlh

well apparently the employees were playing God, so...

swimmer71
swimmer71

Why even waste so much money and effort to bring back an animal that is obviously not meant to be here. They have gone extinct for a reason; climate change, disease, or even hunting by early humans. This animal doesn't have any place for it in the environment anymore, the only reason to bring it back would be for a zoo exhibit. It seems like a lot of money and time to spend on another animal in a cage...

twentyfour7
twentyfour7

The Russians are behind, The animal already exist, they call it E3 . It is  all about money not science. The financiers behind the project will make billions. They have worked on this for the past 10 years. In 2 years or less you will be able to pay to see one. Jurrassic Park is now. This will be the first animal released to be seen by the public.

cpc65
cpc65

While getting to see a living woolly mammoth would be awesome, maybe they should think more about trying to bring back more recently extinct species, especially ones that man played a key role in wiping out?

cpc65
cpc65

Even if they could make a clone from the remains, it would be a copy of that specific animal only. You couldn't repopulate the whole species that way as you need a certain degree of genetic diversity within any multi-celled life form to make establishing a viable breeding population possible.  Without that, one disease could wipe them all out as none would be immune, or at least resistant to that strain of virus or bacteria. Or if the cloned individual had a non beneficial defect it would be passed on to them all.

Bozobub
Bozobub

Actually, untrue.  There are number of parthenogenic species that put the lie to that overgeneralized assertion.  For a healthy, resilient population, yes, you need a certain amount of diversity, but for a completely managed, protected organism, that diversity becomes less important.

If you can keep 'em alive long enough, random mutation will start to start to diversify the population, as well.

cpc65
cpc65

Well, yes. If you keep them in a controlled environment this is true. I was talking about seeing them in the wild, wandering the tundra without human assistance. 

Lawrence Monaco
Lawrence Monaco

What the hell is a woolly mammoth going to do for us?  Why not clone Einstein or Sagan instead?

alekx778
alekx778

@Lawrence Monaco Because a clone would be a total different person, 

psychically speaking. It would only be identical physically.  

Nathan Trujillo
Nathan Trujillo

You clone it, you own it, you pay for the food and pick up it's poop!

us_1776
us_1776

How about we start saving the millions of lesser known plants and animals that are going extinct each year?

How about we start making a concerted effort to STOP BURNING ourselves out of existence?

We need to produce energy through methods other than combustion of hydrocarbons.

.

twentyfour7
twentyfour7

There is already one in existance.  This is FACT not fiction.  The Russians are behind. The Financiers are already in place. This is about Money not science. They have brought Jarassic Park to life. In the next 2 years you will be able to view him, they are working on more. E3 is the third of this species to have been created, but he survived

twentyfour7
twentyfour7

THEY HAVE ALREADY DONE IT!!!!!!!!!! THE RUSSIANS ARE BEHIND.. JURRASIC PARK IS ALIVE AND WELL!!!!!!!!!!  The money and financiers are already in place. You will see on e in the next 2 years.   Fact not Fiction.

JayBird819
JayBird819

Perfect.  Clone a new species just to become extinct in 25 years by the ravages of hunting and poachers.  Brilliant!

Scafandra Leipsig
Scafandra Leipsig

Thank goodness...cause there is nothing tastier than BBQ'd Mammoth. Mmmmm-umm!

supoman
supoman like.author.displayName 1 Like

I can't wait until we can clone them!!  Papa needs a Wolly Mamoth fur coat.............ok.....just kidding...  :)

Kent Wilson
Kent Wilson

babyinastraightjacket...I have to highly agree with your comment, However, I don't think as a modern society any sort of international community of scientists would allow a cloned extinct mammal to be in a lab, but would rather be put in some sort of biological preserve or park...I do completely agree with your sentiment on that it would be considered an oddity and would very much have a difficult time adapting to any sort of co-habitation environment.  We have scene physical evidence of the runts in any sort of primal group in nature being tormented by the other members of its group, to the extent that we even have dubbed it bullying (much like we do as humans), I cannot speak for certain that a mammoth would be treated differently by say a herd of elephants in a preserve, but one could assume in theory that it would be.  

EVHappy
EVHappy

It is only a matter of time, same with cloning humans. Then will be the cloning and transferring the brain of the old to their newer self. Never underestimate what people will do to prolong their lives. 

DNA will be figured out completely and become just another tool for humans to utilize.

CO
CO

Closer to eating a 

 Woolly Mammoth steak

Vice-President Dink Cheney
Vice-President Dink Cheney

The Explorer's Club has dined on mammoth steak before, which is why these guys hope to find frozen meat with a few viable cells. They said it did NOT taste like chicken, but like extremely aged beef.

Stoli05
Stoli05

they obviously didnt see Jurrasic Park....

paolo2012
paolo2012

oops  sorry cnn. that is the Times 19th century writer.

Badly-Bent
Badly-Bent

Where's Sam The Sham and his Pharoahs now?

Nancy
Nancy

Very, very cool

Babyinastraightjacket
Babyinastraightjacket

I'm always torn on the cloning of extinct animals. The scientist in me thinks it would be an amazing accomplishment and something truly remarkable to see. On the other, any animals that would result from this cloning would be oddities, most likely the only one of its kind for most if not all of its life, living in a lab and it wouldn't have much of a life.

Brian Charles
Brian Charles

 Like Dr. Malcolm argued in Jurassic Park:  "Dinosaurs had their shot, and nature selected them for extinction".  The movie, as well as the book, offers valid points on the dangers of undisciplined science, when research moves faster than the ability to understand its ramifications. 

Unless there's a compelling human benefit to cloning extinct animals, I think it's best to leave them extinct. 

XaeroT
XaeroT

We caused most of their deaths.  That not a good enough reason?

Brian Charles
Brian Charles

I was addressing the wooly mammoth, dinosaurs, etc. -- creatures that were long gone by the time humans existed in any significant numbers, or at all.   These are animals we did NOT kill, and we have little understanding of whether they could safely interact in today's world.   

If you're referring to other species which died off as a result of human activity, Dr. Malcolm implies in Jurassic Park that bringing them back can be justified, and that's my viewpoint as well.