Harvard scientists are using a process called “de-extinction” to bring species that were once extinct back from the dead, starting with the woolly mammoth. The Harvard University research team, led by George Church, has taken woolly mammoth genes retrieved from actual frozen remains and spliced them into the genes of an Asian elephant. Church isn’t the first to attempt to bring the woolly mammoth species back to life, but he may be the first to get the mammoth genes to function tangibly in over 5,000 years.
The de-extinction process relies on an extinct species’ closest relatives for gene implantation. For example, the woolly mammoth’s closest living relative is the Asian elephant, but the process would be difficult to employ on other species like the dinosaurs due to a lack of living relatives with similar DNA.
What exactly would a woolly mammoth and elephant hybrid look like? Well, the research team has chosen the genes for the mammoth’s hair color and length, subcutaneous fat, and diminutive ears to be spliced with elephant DNA. So, in theory, we would see a woolly, fat, elephant with tiny ears. The scientists are far from replicating an actual hybrid creature. Right now, they are simply creating tissue cultures in the lab, but they claim that they are actually getting the extinct genes to function alongside the elephant DNA.
Church’s data hasn’t been published or even peer-reviewed yet. But, if his data holds true, this could be the first step in a long process or bringing the woolly mammoth back from extinction.
Source: Popular Science