Scientists trying to clone, resurrect extinct mammoth
A woolly mammoth skeleton is seen on display at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas in September 2009.
January 17th, 2011
11:31 AM ET

Scientists trying to clone, resurrect extinct mammoth

Instead of Jurassic Park, try Pleistocene Park.

A team of scientists from Japan, Russia and the United States hopes to clone a mammoth, a symbol of Earth’s ice age that ended 12,000 years ago, according to a report in Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun. The researchers say they hope to produce a baby mammoth within six years.

The scientists say they will extract DNA from a mammoth carcass that has been preserved in a Russian laboratory and insert it into the egg cells of an African elephant in hopes of producing a mammoth embryo.

The team is being led by Akira Iritani, a professor emeritus at Kyoto University in Japan. He has built upon research from Teruhiko Wakayama of Kobe's Riken Center for Developmental Biology, who successfully cloned a mouse from cells that had been frozen for 16 years, to devise a technique to extract egg nuclei without damaging them, according to the Yomiuri report.

The U.S. researchers are in vitro fertilization experts. They, along with Kinki University professor Minoru Miyashita, will be responsible for implanting the mammoth embryo into an African elephant, the report said.

"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 Yomiuri. "After the mammoth is born, we'll examine its ecology and genes to study why the species became extinct and other factors."

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Filed under: Animals • Japan • Russia • U.S.
soundoff (1,588 Responses)
  1. Raven

    Maybe Michelle O will get to wear the first Mammoth Fur Coat...

    January 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rob

    If we bring them back, then they really weren't extinct, only in a suspended state waiting for an opportunity to return.

    January 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. g

    So never mind the implications against being able to bring back extinct animals

    January 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. IceT

    Why are so many posting under the asumption humans are the reason they became extinct?
    The article even states that they will use this clone to help determine "why" they became extinct.

    January 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ridgerunner

    I don't get it! We got a season on them things back home in West Virginia!

    January 17, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kgury

    Implanting the DNA of a mammoth into an AAfrican Elephant is going to make it 50/50. However if you create more and have them mate with one another you will weave out the African elephant and have a pure breed Mammoth.

    January 17, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      I don't think that's right. The elephant is only the surrogate and also contributes the outer egg. It doesn't contribute any DNA. It will be an exact copy of the baby mammoth.

      January 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • justmeanddog

      @Rob I believe you are correct. The cloning process involves removing the Chromosome from the surrogate's Eggs and discarding it and then implanting the Mammoth DNA directly into the body of the surrogate's Egg. Hence the Zygote will have only the DNA of the specific animal from which it was taken since the genetic code of the individual is found in the chromosomes. At least this is my understanding of the process.

      January 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • BADGUY

      The article is a bit confusing to the "layman". Implanting the DNA in an Elephants egg does what? Does it "combine" with the DNA of the Elephant? I don't think so. Using an egg to "enable" the clone probably does not mean the chromosomes add together to produce a "baby" as in normal reproduction. I believe the elephant egg simple enables the clone to develop. Anyone with more info please clarify.

      January 17, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Chris

    Wouldn't so much more be learned by cloning Neanderthal instead?

    January 17, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raven

      Do you have a frozen one handy?

      January 17, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • BADGUY

      Interesting idea but Neanderthals were "near" human and cloning one (if you could find useable DNA) would probably be illegal. (if not immoral).

      January 17, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lynne

      We don't have their complete DNA yet. Further, basically it would be cloning a human, because they WERE us. Ethically, therefore, to clone one even if we could would not be acceptable. They WERE us because we now realize most or all of non-African humans have a small amount of Neanderthal DNA in their genomes.

      January 17, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Caveman

      I say we check with the Geico people first...I saw a few commercials with some Neanderthal looking guys...maybe they have already been cloned?!?

      January 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scholarcat

      Does this mean you are willing to donate some DNA?

      January 17, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Curtis

    Clone Larry King..find out why he became extinct...

    January 17, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • IceT

      Can't... no living tissue!

      January 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Giver

    If they can clone a mouse and a sheep and we actually can then produce a wholly mammoth.. what is to stop anyone from cloning a saber tooth tiger, or a T-rex.. nothing.. its a slippery slope and we best be careful we do things for a good reason and not just for money. i'm for the cloning just be careful why we do it.. and positively no genetic cloning of people ever...

    January 17, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • IceT

      What stops cloning of the animals you mentioned is that there is no viable genetic material to use for a clone.

      January 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raven

      What IceT means in English is that there is no frozen meat to clone from....

      January 17, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chad

      Man you people are ignorant. The mammoth carcass in question is from an animal that perished in a frozen environment on the order of 10,000 – 15,000 years ago and stayed frozen until discovery, thus preserving usable tissue. The other extinct animals you mention have no such frozen specimens for us to discover and, except for the saber toothed tiger, perished so long ago that the passing of millions of years guarantees no such surviving tissue. Thus the only species that could ever be "brought back" are species that died in the past 10 – 15 millenia and by some freak of chance were preserved perfectly until now such as in the case of this frozen mammoth.

      January 17, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • BADGUY

      Not sure if the material has to be frozen (although that would probably help). Cloning using materials from bone, while possible, is very difficult since buried bones usually have DNA that is in "very bad shape" after being buried for 10-20,000 years.

      January 17, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bee

      Chad: NOT TRUE! You haven't been reading your Scientific American back issues, have you? Google "Mary Higby Schweitzer" and read about her finding viable tissue in a T-Rex leg bone!

      January 18, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. chrisbchrist

    Keep an eye out at your local participating McDonald's.

    January 17, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. joe in TN

    Some things shouldn't be screwed with. This is just such a bad idea on so many levels.

    January 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kendall

    A disease that we can't fight? Animals aren't born with communicable diseases unless their mothers had them while pregnant. We would have to separately clone the bacteria or virus or prion's genes and then give them to the animal. The only diseases that mammoth could possibly have are those that exist already.

    January 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Prions don't have genes.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. Funkymonkey1

    It was a two eyed two horned giant dark brown people eater!!!

    – Sheb Wooley Mammoth

    January 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. NJ Nomad

    Mammoths were in some part driven to extinction because of human hunting. A few years ago, researchers found the remains of a mammoth sub-species...a Pygmy mammoth isolated on an island in Northern Canada that lived there only 4,000 years. That was around the time when humans were building the first pyramids! We found them and had a short-lived barbecue.
    I've been waiting for this announcement for years. I really hope we can bring back the Dodo Bird. Their death sentence was that 17th century mariners found them delicious. There may not be enough breeding blue whales to sustain the species, another animal facing extinction due to human activity. Sharpening cloning skills may ensure that we never lose another creature due to our own action.
    By the way, I am a responsible hunter.

    January 17, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • standingwave

      How about the Passenger Pigeon? Killed off by overhunting.

      January 17, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bee

      Nice post, N.J. A relief to have some intellegence in this thread, along with the humour, of course!

      January 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Annie254

    Oh crap i cn think of 500 things that cld go wrong!there's a reason they died out...its called EVOLUTION!hws abt they work on a cure 4 say AIDS??Cancer??George Bush's stupidity orrr try cloning Elvis instead... just a thought.

    January 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raven

      You can believe you came from a monkey if you want to, but being Created has much more class.

      January 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • LWR

      Hilarious Annie! George Bush's stupidity will be a mystery for the ages. No amount of scientific study will get us any closer to finding out exactly why the 2 brain cells he possesses do not function!

      January 17, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'hws abt they work on a cure 4 say AIDS??Cancer??'
      Its not their area of expertise thats why.

      January 17, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
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