CRISPR technology will be used to create a hybrid between an elephant and a mammoth
Can extinct species be resurrected? A new biotech startup insists that the answer to this question is yes. Colossal has announced its intention to resurrect the woolly mammoth, which disappeared several millennia ago, ScienceAlert reports.
“Never before has humanity been able to use the power of new technologies to restore ecosystems, heal our Earth and preserve its future by repopulating extinct animals,” said Ben Lam, CEO and co-founder of Colossal.
The team of the startup includes geneticists from Harvard. The researchers aim to insert DNA sequences of woolly mammoths, collected from well-preserved remains, into the genome of Asian elephants to create a “mammal-elephant hybrid.”
Asian elephants and woolly mammoths share 99.6 percent of such DNA, Colossal wrote on its website.
The company’s co-founder, George Church, is a renowned geneticist and professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. It will use innovative techniques, including CRISPR technology, to bring endangered species back to life.
Colossal has already raised $ 15 million to launch its project.
“I call them frost-resistant Asian elephants,” Church told HuffPost in a 2016 interview.
Church believes the presence of hybrid creatures in the tundra of Russia and Canada could help reduce the effects of climate change.
Here is what he wrote in Scientific American:
The presence of mammoths could keep the area colder because: (a) they will eat the dead grass, thus allowing the sun to reach the spring grass, whose deep roots prevent erosion; (b) will knock down trees that absorb sunlight, which will increase the reflected light; and (c) pierce the insulating snow so that cold air will penetrate the soil. Poachers are far less likely to target Arctic mammoths.
The plan of Church and his team is to raise the hybrid animal in an artificial uterus. For ethical reasons, a live female elephant is not included because the wear and birth of a larger embryo will be painful for the elephant.
But some skeptics argue that the artificial uterus scheme has its serious drawbacks.
“The Church team is proposing that the embryo develop into an ‘artificial uterus’, which seems ambitious but, to put it mildly, the resulting animal will be deprived of all prenatal interactions with its mother,” said Professor Matthew Cobb of the University of Manchester. in front of the Guardian.
Why, after all, did the last wavy mammoths disappear so suddenly?
Researchers suspect that the causes are in short-term events. Heavy rains fell on the accumulated snow and the ground was covered with a thick layer of ice – the animals could not find enough food. This could lead to a dramatic decline in the population and eventually extinction.
Another possible factor could be the spread of humans – the human contribution to the extinction of the ancient giants cannot be ruled out.