Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - FEATURES/APPRECIATION -

Woolly mam­moths be­came ex­tinct thou­sands of years ago, but now sci­en­tists claim they are just two years away from bring­ing woolly mam­moths back from the dead.

The shaggy beasts last wan­dered the tun­dra of Siberia be­fore our hu­man an­ces­tors prob­a­bly hunted them into ex­tinc­tion.

Now a pro­ject to bring back the mam­moth said within two years the near­est pos­si­ble thing to a mam­moth could be cre­ated.

It would be a hy­brid be­tween an Asian ele­phant and a mam­moth – per­haps you could call it a ‘mamephant’.t would be cre­ated from the DNA ex­tracted from frozen mam­moth car­casses re­trieved from per­mafrost.

If the Har­vard Univer­sity sci­en­tists suc­ceed it will mark a turn­ing point in plans to re­vive mam­moths – by pro­gram­ming their genes into an Asian ele­phant.

The bun­dle of cells would have genes for mam­moth fea­tures such as shaggy long hair, thick lay­ers of fat, and blood that is per­fectly suited to flow­ing in sub zero con­di­tions.

But years of work lie ahead be­fore any se­ri­ous at­tempt can be made to pro­duce a liv­ing crea­ture.

The sci­en­tists have am­bi­tious plans to grow it within an ar­ti­fi­cial womb rather than re­cruit a fe­male ele­phant as a sur­ro­gate mother.

Since start­ing the pro­ject in 2015 the re­searchers have in­creased the num­ber of ‘ed­its’ where mam­moth DNA has been spliced into the ele­phant genome from 15 to 45.Pro­fes­sor Ge­orge Church, who heads the Har­vard team, said: ‘We’re work­ing on ways to eval­u­ate the im­pact of all th­ese ed­its and are ba­si­cally try­ing to es­tab­lish em­bryo­ge­n­e­sis in the lab.

‘The list of ed­its af­fects things that con­trib­ute to the suc­cess of ele­phants in cold en­vi­ron­ments.

‘We al­ready know about ones to do with small ears, sub-cu­ta­neous fat, hair and blood, but there are oth­ers that seem to be pos­i­tively se­lected.’he added: ‘Our aim is to pro­duce a hy­brid ele­phant/ mam­moth em­bryo. Ac­tu­ally, it would be more like an ele­phant with a num­ber of mam­moth traits.

‘We’re not there yet, but it could hap­pen in a cou­ple of years.’

The woolly mam­moth roamed across Europe, Asia, Africa and North Amer­ica dur­ing the last Ice Age and van­ished some 4,500 years ago, prob­a­bly due to a com­bi­na­tion of cli­mate change and hunt­ing by hu­mans. Their clos­est liv­ing rel­a­tive is the Asian, rather than the African, ele­phant.

‘De-ex­tinct­ing’ the mam­moth has be­come a re­al­is­tic prospect be­cause of rev­o­lu­tion­ary gene edit­ing tech­niques that al­low the pre­cise se­lec­tion and in­ser­tion of DNA from spec­i­mens frozen over mil­len­nia in Siberian ice.

Har­vard Univer­sity sci­en­tists plan to use CRISPR gene tech­nol­ogy to splice the pre­served DNA of a frozen mam­moth car­cass with the DNA of an Asian ele­phant

Lyuba, the world’s most well-pre­served mam­moth, went on dis­play at the Nat­u­ral His­tory mu­seum in 2014

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