Scientists will attempt to resurect mammoths by combining genes with modern elephants. Credit: Beth Zaiken/Centre for Palaeogenetics

Harvard Geneticist Raises Funds to Bring Mammoths Back to Life–10 Things You Need to Know

Experts state that the animals shouldn't be referred to as mammoths, but "frost-resistant elephants with all the basic biological characteristics of a woolly mammoth."

Biologist George Church and entrepreneur Ben Lamm announced the creation of Colossal, a company that will be engaged in the “resurrection” of mammoths – obtaining genetically edited frost-resistant elephants with mammoth traits. The startup has received $15 million in funding to date. The company’s specialists expect to see the first calves of such elephants within 4-6 years.


Scientists plan to “resurrect” the Woolly Mammoth: Everything you need to know

What is a Woolly Mammoth?

The woolly mammoth ( Mammuthus primigenius ) is an extinct member of the elephant family, whose closest modern relative is the Asian elephant ( Elephas maximus ). Scientists have been discussing the possibility of reviving mammoths for many years and are even making some progress in this direction. For example, Japanese and Russian researchers forced cell nuclei from mammoth tissues to divide.

Genome editing

Harvard geneticist George Church and American entrepreneur Ben Lamm announced the founding of Colossal to bring back woolly mammoths. To do this, they plan to use the CRISPR/Cas system to edit the genome of the Asian elephant.

How will the embryo be carried?

The company’s website states that a genetically edited Asian elephant embryo will be carried by an African elephant female to eliminate the unnecessary burden on the Asian elephant population.

Artificial uterus

According to George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, they also envision the creation of an artificial uterus in case there is no suitable surrogate mother.

Funding

In addition, reports indicate that the Church and Lamm startup has raised $15 million. The money will be enough to create the embryo, Church said, but additional funding will be needed for the next steps.

When will the first elephant-mammoth newborns appear?

Colossal expects the first mammoth cubs to appear within 4-6 years. Colossal specialists intend to return mammoths to the Arctic expanses. They believe that the emergence of elephant-mammoth hybrids in the Arctic tundra could help restore local habitats from the effects of the climate crisis.

Other extinct species

The company also believes that the technologies that will be developed for this project can be used to return other extinct species and to save endangered organisms.

Not exactly mammoths

The Colossal website also states that the animals that the company is going to breed shouldn’t be referred to as mammoths, but “frost-resistant elephants with all the basic biological characteristics of a woolly mammoth.”

Behavior

The ultimate goal of the project is to create species that behave like a mammoth. Scientists also want to save Asian elephants from extinction by providing them with features that allow them to live and develop in the Arctic.

African elephants

Until recently, the African elephant had the status of a vulnerable species – this status is assigned to organisms that are at risk of becoming endangered. However, in early 2021, IUCN recognized African elephants as two different species and assigned thr endangered status to each.


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Sources:

Greshko, M. (2021, September 13). Mammoth-elephant hybrids could be created within the decade. should they be? Science.
The Guardian. (2021, September 13). Firm raises $15m to bring Back woolly mammoth from extinction.
Lazzaro, S. (n.d.). Colossal wants to resurrect the woolly mammoth. Colossal.
Neuman, S. (2021, September 15). Scientists say they could bring back woolly mammoths. but maybe they shouldn’t. NPR.
Zimmer, C. (2021, September 13). A new company with a wild mission: Bring back the woolly mammoth. The New York Times.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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