Ten thousand years after woolly mammoths vanished from the face of the Earth, scientists are embarking on an ambitious project to bring the beasts back to the Arctic tundra. From a report: The prospect of recreating mammoths and returning them to the wild has been discussed — seriously at times — for more than a decade, but on Monday researchers announced fresh funding they believe could make their dream a reality. The boost comes in the form of $15m raised by the bioscience and genetics company Colossal, co-founded by Ben Lamm, a tech and software entrepreneur, and George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School who has pioneered new approaches to gene editing.
The scientists have set their initial sights on creating an elephant-mammoth hybrid by making embryos in the laboratory that carry mammoth DNA. The starting point for the project involves taking skin cells from Asian elephants, which are threatened with extinction, and reprogramming them into more versatile stem cells that carry mammoth DNA. The particular genes that are responsible for mammoth hair, insulating fat layers and other cold climate adaptions are identified by comparing mammoth genomes extracted from animals recovered from the permafrost with those from the related Asian elephants. These embryos would then be carried to term in a surrogate mother or potentially in an artificial womb. If all goes to plan — and the hurdles are far from trivial — the researchers hope to have their first set of calves in six years.