The Woolly Mammoth’s Return? Scientists Plan to Clone Extinct Creature

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Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

A boy looks at the skeleton of a mammoth in the Ice Age Museum in Moscow.

Good news for anyone who wishes we could revert to prehistoric times, or really, anyone who thinks woolly mammoths are awesome. Scientists in Asia have announced plans to recreate the giant creature that stomped around the Earth some 4,500 years ago.

On Tuesday, scientist Hwang Woo-suk of South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation signed an agreement with Vasily Vasiliev of Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University to clone a mammoth, AFP reports.

(MORE: Japanese Scientist Says We’ll Have Mammoths by 2015)

Hwang, once lauded as a pioneer in the field of cloning, lost a bit of credibility in 2006 when some of his breakthrough human stem cell research turned out to be fabricated. However, experts have verified his work in creating the world’s first cloned dog, Snuppy, in 2005. Hwang’s next goal could also come to fruition now that portions of Siberia’s permafrost have thawed and left behind mammoth remains. Sooam officials said the foundation will launch research this year.

So how exactly does one go about cloning a woolly mammoth? The scientists plan to replace the nuclei of elephant egg cells with those of a mammoth, producing embryos with mammoth DNA. Then, those embryos will be planted into the wombs of elephants for delivery. The mammoth cells would come from internal organs, skin, bones and blood. Finding well-preserved tissue with an undamaged gene will be the most difficult task, the researchers told the AFP.

Though the initiative is quite ambitious, the researchers said they’re confident, given their previous success in cloning animals — and the success of their colleagues. South Korean scientists have already cloned animals including a cat, dogs, a pig, a cow and a wolf.

MORE: Free Woolly Out of the Cold