“Never before has humanity been able to harness the power of this technology to rebuild ecosystems, heal our Earth and preserve its future through the repopulation of extinct animals,” says Colossal, capitalizing on a partnership with Harvard.
Woolly mammoths roamed much of the Arctic, and co-existed with early humans who hunted the cold-resistent herbivores for food and used its tusks and bones as tools.
The animals died out about 4,000 years ago. For decades, scientists have been recovering bits and pieces of mammoth tusks, bones, teeth and hair to extract and try to sequence the mammoth’s DNA.
Now, the effort has got a firm financial backing as a bioscience and genetics company Colossal has raised USD 15 million.
The scientists have set their eyes on first creating an elephant-mammoth hybrid. For this, embryos with mammoth DNA will be created in the laboratory.
Asian elephants and woolly mammoths share a 99.6 percent similar DNA makeup, Colossal says on its website.
In the process of reviving the mammoth, Colossal says, it will also develop technologies that can help people and the planet in a multitude of other ways. “We’ve found a way to harness CRISPR’s power for species de-extinction,” Church says. “However, gene editing has the potential to impact all aspects of life — from animal de-extinction and ecosystem restoration, to disease prevention and creating more sustainable human bodies.”
About 1 million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction. Colossal’s mammoth project, should it succeed, would suggest they have developed the capacity to both repopulate recently dead creatures, and even perform what Lamm calls “genetic rescue” to stop them from disappearing in the first place.
There will be hurdles in this path of course. But scientists feel that if all goes according to the plan, the first calves will be born in six years. And it takes 18 to 22 months for the gestation of an elephant as we know it today. Then it takes about 13 years for an elephant to reach sexual maturity.