The Jurassic Park dream, cloning an extinct animal thanks to a little fragment of tissue, may soon come true. It is no fiction; this is the next (criticized) accomplishment of genetics. Using a genetic ‘puzzle’, scientists will be able to recreate a mammoth, which is very similar to the modern Pliocene elephant but lived 5 million years ago.
Researchers are using the DNA of the remains of two mammoth – which lived 20,000 and 60,000 years ago – and a modern Asian elephant. The analysis of these two tissues demonstrated that they had a common ancestor. Researchers selected the genes that helped these animals survive arctic weather – thick skin, long woolly hairs and fat storage – and put them in the cells of an Indian elephant, using Crispr technique. This technique helps researchers cut, as with scissors, precise points of the genetic code. Debate rose around Crisp technique at a scientific and ethic point of view. It is not certain whether manipulating the ‘map’ of life is actually safe or not.
A group at Harvard University is working on this project; George Church is leading the team. The aim is to find useful information to clone elephants so that they can live in Siberia and in arctic weather. The second step is to create tridimensional structures, very similar to organs, using stem cell. The third step is to clone a mammoth. ‘Resurrecting’ extinct species – maybe even more ancient than t-rexes and pterodactyls – is not fiction anymore.
Translation provided by Mary Ann D’Costa