28,000-Year-Old Woolly Mammoth Cells Brought Back To Life By Scientists


Cells from a woolly mammoth that died around 28,000 years ago have begun showing “signs of life” during a groundbreaking scientific experiment.

Image credit: Kindai University

The young woolly mammoth was dug out of Siberian permafrost in 2011. With the species being extinct for about 4,000 years, finding such a relatively intact specimen was big news – particularly since this one was 28,000 years old.

Scientists have since been eager to find out how viable the biological materials of the uncovered mammoth still are, all those millennia later. Now researchers at Kindai University in Japan have found that its DNA is partially intact – and apparently they are well in the game to restore this huge prehistoric mammal back among the living.

If they succeed, it could look something like this (at first).

Model depicting mammoth calf, Stuttgart. Image credit: Apotea

Anyway, it all comes down to the fact that the scientists at the university have managed to extract nuclei from the mammoth’s cells and transplant them into mouse oocytes – cells found in ovaries that are capable of forming an egg cell after genetic division.

After that, the cells from the 28,000-year-old specimen started to show “signs of biological activities.”

A time-lapse of mouse oocyte cells injected with mammoth nuclei. Kindai University/Scientific Reports

“This suggests that, despite the years that have passed, cell activity can still happen and parts of it can be recreated,” said study author Kei Miyamoto from the Department of Genetic Engineering at Kindai University.

Five of the cells even showed highly unexpected and very promising results, namely signs of activity that usually only occur immediately preceding cell division.

Frozen mammoth calf “Lyuba” – it still had food in its stomach, Royal BC Museum. Image credit: Ruth Hartnup

Establishing whether the mammoth DNA could still function wasn’t an easy task. Researchers began by taking bone marrow and muscle tissue samples from the animal’s leg. These were then analyzed for the presence of undamaged nucleus-like structures, which, once found, were extracted.

Once these nuclei cells were combined with mouse oocytes, mouse proteins were added, revealing some of the mammoth cells to be perfectly capable of nuclear reconstitution. This, finally, suggested that even 28,000-year-old mammoth remains could harbor active nuclei.

Meaning, something like, that resurrecting a specimen like this one would be quite possible.

Royal Victoria Museum, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 2018

While Miyamoto admits that “we are very far from recreating a mammoth,” plenty of researchers attempting to use gene editing to do so are confident that that achievement is around the corner. Recent efforts, using the controversial CRISPR gene editing tool, are arguably the most promising, of late.

But do we really need to resurrect a species that went extint a long time ago?

Sources: 1, 2, 3

14 COMMENTS

  1. It seems like a tremendous waste of money – probably millions to do what? Is there some benefit to this species being alive in today’s environment? Would they even survive – and where would they live? In a cage somewhere…used for testing. Elephants are already endangered – why not put the money into a species that is at risk now and STOP an extinction from happening.

  2. sounds amazing dousent it and yes there is a but .where would they live when they lived they had thousands of miles to move around find food and water they had famalies like we do .and in todays world if the scientists managed to bring bring to life a mamoth what kind of life would it have .locked in a cage pocked and prodded .the way the world is today our wonderfull wildlife will soon be extinct so many large animals like elephants giraffs lions are being hunted and killed it may sound amazing to you but to me they could not survive in this world perhaps in the future when people want our animals to live and not be hunted to extinction .

  3. It’s said there isn’t enough habitat left for the animals alive today. So, why bring back an animal which isn’t even part of our current ecosystem? They won’t stop at making one, they’ll make a herd then later claim they’re overpopulated and need to be hunted or slaughtered.

  4. Do we really need to create a species that went extinct thousands of years ago…… No. If you are gonna do it why not just go the whole hog and recreate a tyronasaurus rex or a velocaraptor???

  5. I have seen a video / home movie of a live Mamoth, taken by a German soldier in WW2 inside Russia. I think I typed in Mamoth to search, there was another video as well.

  6. We absolutely should. Why do all articles have to ask that. If you found it interesting to write about and read, know that its 10,000 times more interesting to see.

  7. To awnser your question, yes and just because we can. I think it would bring pride to humanity and ease the sorrow of the greaving, that even something that died 20 000y ago can be resurrected if necessairy. Besides, it seems like a vain extinction, more furry creatures in our wildlife wouldnt hurt. Might even start a dodo farm

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