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Updated: July 31, 2013 18:57 IST

Campaign to clone the woolly mammoth restarted

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According to scientists, woolly mammoths became extinct about 10,000 BC when a comet exploded in the earth’s atmosphere and caused fires. File Photo.
AP According to scientists, woolly mammoths became extinct about 10,000 BC when a comet exploded in the earth’s atmosphere and caused fires. File Photo.

The long extinct woolly mammoth could be resurrected in under four years, thanks to cloning technology breakthrough.

Previous efforts in the 1990’s to recover nuclei in cells from the skin and muscle tissue of mammoths found in Siberia failed because the region’s extreme cold had damaged them.

But a technique pioneered in 2008 by Teruhiko Wakayama of the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology, Japan, was successful in cloning a mouse from the cells of another mouse frozen for 16 years.

Now that hurdle has been overcome, Akira Iritani, professor at Kyoto University, is re-activating his campaign to resurrect the woolly mammoth species that died out over 12,000 years ago.

According to scientists, woolly mammoths became extinct about 10,000 BC when a comet exploded in the earth’s atmosphere and caused fires.

“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.

Iritani intends to use Wakayama’s technique to identify the nuclei of viable mammoth cells before extracting the healthy ones.

The nuclei will then be inserted into the egg cells of an African elephant, which will act as the surrogate mother for the mammoth.

Iritani said he estimates that another two years will be needed before the elephant can be impregnated, followed by the approximately 600-day gestation period.

He has announced plans to travel to Siberia in the summer to search for mammoths in the permafrost and to recover a sample of skin or tissue that can be as small as 3cm square.

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