September 12, 2012
Jurassic Park Or Jurassic Lark – Can Scientists Successfully Clone A Mammoth?
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
An international team of scientists, led by North-Eastern Federal University of Russia, have discovered frozen woolly mammoth fragments that could contain living cells deep in Siberia, bringing closer the possibility of cloning the extinct animals.
This sounds like a twisted mammalian version of Jurassic Park, but it isn't fiction.
According to the Associated Press, the team discovered mammoth hair, soft tissues and bone marrow at a depth of 328 feet during a summer expedition. The samples were found in a permafrost mammoth graveyard in remote Yakutia, in far eastern Russia.
Expedition chief Semyon Grigoryev said a group of Korean scientists with the team had set a goal of finding living cells in the hope of cloning a mammoth. Scientists have previously found bodies and fragments, but not living cells.
Grigoryev told online newspaper Vzglyad it would take months of lab research to determine whether they have indeed found the cells.
"Only after thorough laboratory research will it be known whether these are living cells or not," he said, adding that would take until the end of the year at the earliest.
Woolly mammoths are thought to have died out 10,000 years ago. Some scientists, though, believe small groups lived for a longer time in Alaska and in Russia's Wrangel Island off the Siberian coast.
Because much of the genetic code of the woolly mammoth has been deciphered from balls of mammoth hair found frozen in the Siberian permafrost, many believe that the discovery of living cells will allow them to recreate the animals.
Those who succeed in recreating an extinct animal could claim a "Jurassic Park prize," the concept of which is being developed by the X Prize Foundation that awarded a 2004 prize for the first private spacecraft.
"A detailed film will be seen next year on the National Geographic channel," a participant told RIA Novosti news agency.