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Researchers attempting to clone a mammoth by 2017


January 23, 2011

Woolly mammoths in a late Pleistocene landscape in northern Spain (Image: Mauricio Anton via PLoS Biology)

Woolly mammoths in a late Pleistocene landscape in northern Spain (Image: Mauricio Anton via PLoS Biology)

The last known mammoth lived around 4,500 years ago, but if scientists in Japan are successful then we might be able to meet one soon! Research to resurrect these awesome creatures was shelved when cell nuclei taken from a sample from Siberia were found to be too badly damaged, however a scientific breakthrough in Kobe successfully cloned a mouse from sixteen year old deep frozen tissue, and the research began again in earnest ...

Mammoths are a species of the extinct genus Mammuthus, and closely related to modern elephants today. As anyone who's been awed and amazed by a mammoth skeleton would know, some had long-curved tusks, and in colder regions, long shaggy hair. The last known mammoths died out 4,500 years ago, but in 1997 researchers at Kyoto University began to try and extract DNA from the tissue of a preserved mammoth carcass found in the Siberian permafrost.

Their efforts were thwarted however by damage caused by ice crystals that rendered the cells unviable. The breakthrough came in 2008 when scientist Dr. Teruhiko Wakayama from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, developed a new technique, and successfully managed to clone a mouse from tissue that had been deep frozen for sixteen years.

Now emeritus professor Akira Iritani and his team at Kyoto University are making preparations to fulfill their goal of cloning a live mammoth. They successfully extracted mammoth egg cell nuclei without damage, and used elephant egg cells to fill the gaps.

"Now the technical problems have been overcome, all we need is a good sample of soft tissue from a frozen mammoth," he told The Daily Telegraph.

In the summer, Iritani will travel to Siberia to search for good mammoth samples. There are an estimated 150 million mammoth remains in Russia's Siberian permafrost, some whole frozen specimens, others in pieces of bone, tusk, tissue and wool. If he is unsuccessful he will apply to Russian scientists to give him a sample.

If a mammoth embryo is successfully cloned then it will be transplanted into a surrogate African elephant, the mammoth's closest living relative. Then will follow a gestation period of 22 months, the longest of any land animal.

"The success rate in the cloning of cattle was poor until recently but now stands at about 30 per cent, I think we have a reasonable chance of success and a healthy mammoth could be born in four or five years." said Iritani.

There are other considerations however; "If a cloned embryo can be created, we need to discuss, before transplanting it into the womb, how to breed [the mammoth] and whether to display it to the public," Iritani told the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. "After the mammoth is born, we'll examine its ecology and genes to study why the species became extinct and other factors."


Aren\'t the americans or Europeans up to speed on this as well? They must be planning to grow some exinct species?

Tom Bizannes

But I think they need a cold climate to live and the next years will hot because we keep on rising deforestation, we use the papper as we don\'t care, we are reading about hydrogen cars and we can\'t afffort one(the enterprises are more destructives for environement)...

Facebook User

Pure insanity and stupidity. What\'s next? Clone dinosaurs? Where are those scientific ethic gone? Aren\'t we all going to say something but cheer?


As will I, since I first read of such a magnificent creature, I have had a strong desire to eat a defrosted mammoth steak or mammoth burger...

David Klein

This is awesome news!

Jacob William

and then the Japanese will eat it!!

Danijela Totic- Klanac

You mean 2015....the article said 4-5 years...not 6 years.

Cant wait to actually see an alive mammoth. Zoo\'s will probably take the first few, then we might be able to get enough numbers cloned where they will have baby mammoths, and the species that man killed off, man will revive.

If successful, I\'m hoping they can bring back another ancient beast that man killed off, the saber-toothed tiger! That would be sweet. Who knows, maybe in a century of so, we will be able to bring back dinosaurs, hopefully only the Herbivores......


Who said Man killed them off? 150 million remains? I don\'t think we had much to do with that.

But its really cool what they are doing.

Eric Nyhof

I think 2017 is the date that it will be the secret ingredient on Iron Chef America. By the way, humans didn\'t kill off mammoths. Remember that there\'s 150,000,000 Mammoths in the permafrost of Siberia alone. 4,500 years ago there were only a handful of dudes with spears, and they could feed their tribe for ages on just a single beast. Like it or not, the earth itself abuses life far more effectively than humans do. We\'re the ones who will bring the animal back from extinction... then eat it.


Dodo birds next!!


Holy Jurassic Park Batman! What\'s next- Dinosaurs?

Facebook User

Looks yummy.


The real question isn\'t if we should clone them, but how much should they cost on a sushi dish... mmmm \"whooly mamoth size my burger please!\" might become a popular advertisement. @ wow2010: Please don\'t think that its stupid to make a new food dish. Imagine all the starving people they could feed. Seriously though, cloning animals to bring them back to life isn\'t unethical. Its not stupid either. Give me a good reason why we shouldn\'t clone them and then we\'ll talk again

Jesse Brown

Let\'s hope they can breed them to be tuskless, otherwise they won\'t number beyond 150, let alone 150 million.

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