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Tags: woolly mammoth | clone | Siberia | Semyon Grigoriev

Clones of a Woolly Mammoth May Again Walk the Earth

By    |   Tuesday, 18 November 2014 10:01 AM EST

In 2013, a team of Russian scientists led by mammoth-hunter Semyon Grigoriev unearthed an extremely well-preserved 40,000-year-old woolly mammoth carcass that still contained liquid blood.

Researchers at North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, Siberia, conducted an autopsy to learn more about how the mammoth lived and whether there was enough viable DNA to make cloning a reality.

The findings of the autopsy will be aired by the Smithsonian Channel in a prime-time special called "How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth," on Nov. 29, reports Fox News.

Cognizant of what they had unearthed, the Russian team reached out to Kevin Campbell of Canada's University of Manitoba. Campbell has previously used mammoth DNA to get bacteria to generate the mammoth version of hemoglobin in the hope of determining whether cloning could be made a reality, reported the CBC in 2013.

"I would say it probably is a phenomenally well-preserved mammoth that has good DNA.

"The better the DNA, the more likely we get closer to the true genome, which means ultimately if people's desires are to clone something, you get something closer to the real deal," Hendrik Poinar, a geneticist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, told the CBC after the scientists' discovery.

The female woolly mammoth has been given the name Buttercup.

Aside from flowing blood, the team also found mammoth muscle with the “natural red color of fresh meat,” says a release from the North-Eastern Federal University.

South Korean scientists with the biotech company Sooam have been working on the cloning project and believe it is possible to bring the extinct mammoth back to life using Buttercup's DNA.

“We’re trying hard to make this possible within our generation,” Insung Hwang, one of the scientists, told a Channel 4 documentary team, which also is airing a special on the cloning project, according to The Telegraph of London.

Hwang and his colleagues hope to use a small vial of blood containing DNA samples and other portions of the carcass as they attempt to patch together a genome complete enough to clone.

The question of whether cloning a woolly mammoth has raised a separate line of inquiry — is it ethical to pursue cloning?

"The most fundamental step and ethical concern with this kind of procedure is that you need to have an Asian elephant surrogate mum at some point; cloning a mammoth will require you to experiment on probably many, many Asian elephants.

"The most important thing is how much we can learn without having to go down the route of cloning," Dr. Tori Herridge, a palaeobiologist based at the Natural History Museum in London told The Independent.

Hwang acknowledges that the ethics of cloning are not clear-cut.

"There are inherent ethical questions we have to address," he said. "That's why we have to start discussing the implications now."

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In 2013, a team of Russian scientists led by Semyon Grigoriev unearthed an extremely well-preserved 40,000-year-old woolly mammoth carcass, who blood may make it possible to clone the prehistoric animal, a distant relative of the elephant.
woolly mammoth, clone, Siberia, Semyon Grigoriev
Tuesday, 18 November 2014 10:01 AM
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