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HomeAnimals28,000-Year-Old Woolly Mammoth Cells Brought Back To Life By Scientists

28,000-Year-Old Woolly Mammoth Cells Brought Back To Life By Scientists

Cells from a woolly mammoth that died around 28,000 years ago have begun showing “signs of life” during a groundbreaking scientific experiment.

Image credit: Kindai University

In 2011, a baby woolly mammoth was excavated from Siberian permafrost. With the species having been extinct for almost 4,000 years, discovering such a substantially complete specimen was significant, especially given it was 28,000 years old.

Scientists have been keen to learn whether the unearthed mammoth’s biological elements are still viable millennia later. Now, researchers at Japan’s Kindai University have discovered that its DNA is mostly intact – and they appear to be well on their way to reintroducing this massive prehistoric creature into the living world.

Model depicting mammoth calf, Stuttgart. Image credit: Apotea

In any case, the scientists at the institution were able to separate nuclei from mammoth cells and transplant them into mouse oocytes – cells located in ovaries capable of generating an egg cell following genetic division.

Following that, the cells from the 28,000-year-old specimen began to exhibit “evidence of biological activity.”

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

“This shows that, despite the passage of time, cell activity may still occur and elements of it can be replicated,” said research author Kei Miyamoto of Kindai University’s Department of Genetic Engineering.

Five of the cells even demonstrated extremely unexpected and intriguing outcomes, namely signals of activity that normally occur just right before to cell division.

It wasn’t simple to determine whether the mammoth DNA could still operate. The researchers started by extracting bone marrow and muscle tissue from the animal’s leg. These were then examined for the existence of intact nucleus-like structures, which were removed once discovered.

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

After combining these nuclei cells with mouse oocytes, mouse proteins were introduced, demonstrating that some of the mammoth cells are entirely capable of nuclear reconstitution. Finally, it was claimed that even 28,000-year-old mammoth bones may contain functioning nuclei.

Meaning, something like, that resurrecting a specimen like this one would be quite possible.

Royal Victoria Museum, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 2018

While Miyamoto recognizes that “we are far distant from reproducing a mammoth,” many academics working on genome editing believe that success is just around the corner. Recent efforts, possibly the most promising of late, have used the controversial CRISPR gene editing technique.


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