Sunday, April 14, 2024

Researchers take small steps to bring back a huge creature that doesn’t exist anymore

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Scientists are secretly working on a plan to bring back the woolly mammoth, the big, hairy elephant from a really long time ago that disappeared a really long time ago. They want to make a new kind of elephant that looks just like the old mammoth and could help fix the problems in the Arctic where it used to live.

Harvard University scientist George Church has been trying to bring back the mammoth for more than 10 years. In 2021, he started a company called Colossal Biosciences with a friend, Ben Lamm, to make this happen. They got a lot of money and attention for their idea.

Even though it’s a tough job, Colossal Biosciences said they made a big step forward recently. They’re using special cells called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to change an elephant’s cells to have mammoth-like features. These cells can become any kind of cell in the body, making it easier for scientists to figure out how to make the new elephant-mammoth.

The scientists also hope that these changes can help elephants resist cancer, a disease they are usually good at avoiding. This could be important for saving elephants in the future.

But making a real mammoth is still far away. The plan is to use cloning techniques to make a new elephant with mammoth features. First, they’ll try putting the edited cells into an elephant mom’s egg and letting her carry the baby. But this might not work well, and some people think it’s not right to use endangered animals this way.

The scientists want to make a mammoth that can survive in the cold and doesn’t have tusks to avoid poachers. They believe that if they release enough mammoths into the Arctic, it might help slow down the melting of the frozen ground.

Colossal Biosciences also wants to bring back the Tasmanian tiger and the dodo bird, but the mammoth project is their oldest and most important one.

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