Scientists Brought Life Back To Woolly Mammoth Cells That Are 28,000 Years Old

A revolutionary scientific experiment revealed “signs of life” in cells taken from a woolly mammoth that died 28,000 years ago.

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Image credit: Kindai University

In 2011, a woolly baby mammoth was unearthed from the icy depths of Siberia. Finding a specimen in such good condition, especially one that was 28,000 years old when the species went extinct, was a major development.

Since then, researchers have been curious about the biological elements of the unearthed mammoth and whether or not they are still viable after all these centuries. Now that its DNA is mostly intact, experts at Japan’s Kindai University are supposedly well on their way to bringing this massive, extinct creature back to life.

That’s what it might look like if their plan works (at first).

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Model depicting mammoth calf, Stuttgart. Image credit: Apotea

To summarize: university researchers have successfully removed nuclei from mammoth cells and inserted them into oocytes (cells found in the ovaries that can divide genetically to become an egg cell) from mice.

After then, “evidence of biological processes” were observed in the 28,000-year-old specimen’s cells.

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A time-lapse of mouse oocyte cells injected with mammoth nuclei. Kindai University/Scientific Reports

Study author Kei Miyamoto of the Department of Genetic Engineering at Kindai University remarked, “This shows that, despite the years that have gone, cell activity can still proceed and parts of it can be replicated.”

Even more surprisingly, five of the cells had extremely encouraging signs of activity that are normally seen just before cells divide.

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Frozen mammoth calf “Lyuba” – it still had food in its stomach, Royal BC Museum. Image credit: Ruth Hartnup

Evaluating the mammoth DNA for its potential to still perform functions was no simple feat. First, researchers collected samples of muscle and bone marrow from the animal’s leg. These were then studied to see whether or not they had intact nucleus-like structures, which, if so, were removed.

By fusing mammoth cell nuclei with mouse oocytes and then adding mouse proteins, researchers discovered that some of the mammoth cells were fully capable of nuclear reconstitution. This provided conclusive evidence that even mammoth bones dating back 28,000 years could still contain functional nuclei.

That is to say; it is plausible that a specimen similar to this one may be brought back to life.

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British Columbia, Canada’s Royal Museum of Victoria in 2018

While Miyamoto concedes, “we are extremely far from reconstructing a mammoth,” many scientists working to recreate one using genome editing remain optimistic that they will soon succeed. Efforts made recently using the divisive CRISPR gene editing technique are among the most encouraging in recent memory.

Is it necessary, though, to bring back an extinct race?


Krista Fernando
I'm a freelance writer with a strong desire to write on the most popular topics. My goal is to write about anything that has been thoroughly studied and to make blogs sparkle. Continue reading!

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