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Monster From The Past
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Cloning The Woolly Mammoth

 

By James Donahue

 

The concept of cloning plants and animals is such a new and exciting field for contemporary science, some wild ideas about just what to clone once they get the technique perfected are beginning to appear.

 

For example, a team of scientists at Kinki University in Wakayama, Japan, and Russia’s Sakha Republic’s mammoth museum plan to begin research next year in an attempt to resurrect the woolly mammoth. They will be attempting to clone                 the beast from well-preserved 20,000 year-old bone marrow recovered in the Siberian permafrost.

 

“We consider these cells conditionally alive,” said Vladimir Repin, the leader of the Russian team that found the frozen carcass. “The inner structure of these cells is undamaged.” The cells were carefully extracted and remain in a frozen and preserved state until the two teams are ready to attempt to clone the original mammoth.

 

The Woolly mammoth is believed to be an ancient relative of the modern elephant that went extinct at about the time the dinosaurs also disappeared from the face of the planet. While the elephant now is threatened with extinction, it is hard to understand why a team of scientists in Japan would want to bring back another beast of comparable size. Of course there is the challenge of accomplishment and the fact that such a fete would perhaps create an oddity for a Japanese Zoo that would attract people from all over the world.

 

There is no place for the woolly mammoth to run wild anymore. We humans have laid claim to just about every patch of available ground.

 

The scientists looking into the project say it may take years to bring this prehistoric beast to life, if it is even possible. Dr. Yoshihiko Hosoi, a professor of genetics at Kinki University, says the work will first involve sequencing the genetic material to determine its genetic make-up.

 

Once the genome is completed, scientists can tell if the extinct animal is closely related to modern elephants. If this is true, they hope to use an elephant to try to incubate a cloned mammoth.

 

The plan would be to replace the nuclei of egg cells from an elephant with those taken from the mammoth’s marrow cells, and thus produce embryos with mammoth DNA.

 

 

There is a kind of sadness to this story. The elephant is a highly intelligent creature and it may be a very cruel thing to plant a hairy beast of a child in her womb. If the mammoth clone is successful, it could be rejected by the mother because she will see that it is not a normal offspring.

 

The beast, itself, would be such a freak of nature it would come into a world it may not adapt to. It would be almost comparable to a human going asleep for 20,000 years and then waking up to a world unlike anything it ever remembered. The memories locked in the DNA of the mammoth would not be prepared for the world we created since it went extinct.