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Sunday, 14 October 2012

Mammoth 'could be reborn in four years'

Mammoth 'could be reborn in four years'
The woolly mammoth, extinct for thousands of years, could be brought back to life in as little as four years thanks to a breakthrough in cloning technology.

Previous efforts in the 1990s to recover nuclei in cells from the skin and muscle tissue from mammoths found in the Siberian permafrost failed because they had been too badly damaged by the extreme cold.

But a technique pioneered in 2008 by Dr. Teruhiko Wakayama, of the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology, was successful in cloning a mouse from the cells of another mouse that had been frozen for 16 years.

Now that hurdle has been overcome, Akira Iritani, a professor at Kyoto University, is reactivating his campaign to resurrect the species that died out 5,000 years ago.

"Now the technical problems have been overcome, all we need is a good sample of soft tissue from a frozen mammoth," he told The Daily Telegraph.He intends to use Dr Wakayama's technique to identify the nuclei of viable mammoth cells before extracting the healthy ones.

The nuclei will then be inserted into the egg cells of an African elephant, which will act as the surrogate mother for the mammoth. Professor Iritani said he estimates that another two years will be needed before the elephant can be impregnated, followed by the approximately 600-day gestation period.

He has announced plans to travel to Siberia in the summer to search for mammoths in the permafrost and to recover a sample of skin or tissue that can be as small as 3cm square. If he is unsuccessful, the professor said, he will ask Russian scientists to provide a sample from one of their finds.

"The success rate in the cloning of cattle was poor until recently but now stands at about 30 per cent," he said. "I think we have a reasonable chance of success and a healthy mammoth could be born in four or five years."


Russian boy discovers 'woolly mammoth of the century'


An 11-year-old boy from a nomadic family in Russia's north has discovered a well-preserved woolly mammoth, in what scientists describe as the best such discovery since 1901.


Russian boy discovers 'woolly mammoth of the century'
Woolly mammoth Photo: AFP

Yevgeny Salinder, whose family lives near a polar station in the northern Taymyr Peninsula, discovered the frozen prehistoric animal when he was walking along the banks of the Yenisei River in late August.

"He sensed an unpleasant odour and saw something sticking out of the ground – it was the mammoth's heels," said Alexei Tikhonov, director of the St Petersburg-based Zoological Museum, who rushed to the tundra after the boy's family notified scientists of the historic find.

Mr Tikhonov said it was the best preserved adult mammoth discovered in more than 100 years.

"So far we can say it is the mammoth of the century," he said.

"An employee of the International Mammoth Committee and me went to the site. Judging by its legs, it turned out to be quite a large mammoth, it was lying on its right side at the height of 5 metres (15 feet) above sea level. We had to start the excavation as soon as possible and there were just the two of us."

Joined by employees of the nearby Sopkarga polar station, the scientists spent five days digging out the animal.  Mr Tikhonov said the mammoth had died aged 15-16 around 30,000 years ago, adding that the tusk, skin, an eye and an ear were clearly visible.

"Its one-metre-long penis is also intact so we can conclude that this was a male," Mr Tikhonov said, adding it also had one 1.5-metre-long tusk.

"Its skeleton is virtually intact and its heart in the rib cage may be intact, too."

The precious find weighing nearly one tonne was transported to the northern city of Dudinka and will later be brought to St Petersburg and Moscow where scientists can study it. Mr Tikhonov said that geneticists might be interested in trying to clone the animal, dubbed Zhenya after the nickname of the boy who discovered it, but he suggested that this would be difficult.

Global warming has thawed ground in northern Russia that is usually almost permanently frozen, leading to the discoveries of a number of mammoth remains.

South Korean and Russian scientists bid to clone mammoth


Russian and South Korean scientists signed a deal earlier this year on joint research intended to recreate a woolly mammoth, an animal which last walked the earth some 10,000 years ago.


Russian and South Korean scientists signed a deal on Tuesday on joint research intended to recreate a woolly mammoth, an animal which last walked the earth some 10,000 years ago.

South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk (L) shakes hands with Vasily Vasiliev, vice director of North-Eastern Federal University of Russia's Sakha Republic 
Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The deal was signed by Vasily Vasiliev, vice rector of North-Eastern Federal University of the Sakha Republic, and controversial cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-Suk of South Korea's Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.

Hwang was a national hero until some of his research into creating human stem cells was found in 2006 to have been faked. But his work in creating Snuppy, the world's first cloned dog, in 2005, has been verified by experts.

Stem cell scientists are now setting their sights on the extinct woolly mammoth, after global warming thawed Siberia's permafrost and uncovered remains of the animal.

Sooam said it would launch research this year if the Russian university can ship the remains. The Beijing Genomics Institute will also take part in the project.

The South Korean foundation said it would transfer technology to the Russian university, which has already been involved in joint research with Japanese scientists to bring a mammoth back to life.

"The first and hardest mission is to restore mammoth cells," another Sooam researcher, Hwang In-Sung, told AFP. His colleagues would join Russian scientists in trying to find well-preserved tissue with an undamaged gene.

By replacing the nuclei of egg cells from an elephant with those taken from the mammoth's somatic cells, embryos with mammoth DNA could be produced and planted into elephant wombs for delivery, he said. Sooam will use an Indian elephant for its somatic cell nucleus transfer. The somatic cells are body cells, such as those of internal organs, skin, bones and blood.

"This will be a really tough job, but we believe it is possible because our institute is good at cloning animals," Hwang In-Sung said.

South Korean experts have previously cloned animals including a cow, a cat, dogs, a pig and a wolf.

Last October Hwang Woo-Suk unveiled eight cloned coyotes in a project sponsored by a provincial government.

Source: AFP via The Telegraph @ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8257223/Mammoth-could-be-reborn-in-four-years.html & http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/9590626/Russian-boy-discovers-woolly-mammoth-of-the-century.html & http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/9139976/South-Korean-and-Russian-scientists-bid-to-clone-mammoth.html

For more information about mammoths see http://nexusilluminati.blogspot.com/search/label/frozen%20mammoths

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