It is the elephant in the genomics room — can extinct species be resurrected?
One bioscience firm insists they can, announcing on Monday its intent to use emerging technology to restore the woolly mammoth to the arctic tundra.
Colossal, capitalizing on a partnership with a Harvard geneticist, said its species “de-extinction” effort has the potential to anchor a working model for restoring damaged or lost ecosystems and thereby help slow, or even halt, the effects of climate change.
“Never before has humanity been able to harness the power of this technology to rebuild ecosystems, heal our Earth and preserve its future through the repopulation of extinct animals,” Colossal chief executive and cofounder Ben Lamm, an emerging technology entrepreneur, said in a statement.
“In addition to bringing back ancient extinct species like the woolly mammoth, we will be able to leverage our technologies to help preserve critically endangered species that are on the verge of extinction and restore animals where humankind had a hand in their demise,” the statement said.
Woolly mammoths roamed much of the arctic and coexisted with early humans, who hunted the herbivores for food, and used its tusks and bones as tools.
The animals died out about 4,000 years ago.
For decades, scientists have been recovering bits and pieces of mammoth tusks, bones, teeth and hair to extract and try to sequence the mammoth’s DNA.
Colossal says it aims to insert DNA sequences of woolly mammoths, collected from well-preserved remains in the permafrost and frozen steppes, into the genome of Asian elephants, to create an “elephant-mammoth hybrid.”
Asian elephants and woolly mammoths share a 99.6 percent similar DNA makeup, Colossal says on its Web site.
Colossal says restoring the beasts has the potential to revitalize the arctic grasslands, a vast region with properties to combat climate change, such as carbon sequestering and methane suppression.
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