Wednesday 15 September 2021
Project funding is available
Researchers working on giant-elephant mix
The woolly mammoths are extinct, but scientists at Harvard University want to revive them. The plan sounds simple: the giant DNA has to be transplanted into a living elephant. Curious Crossroads is said to be more than a Frankenstein fantasy. It is about climate protection.
American researchers are pursuing an ambitious goal: They want to extract DNA from an extinct giant, mix it with the genetic material of a living Asian elephant, and use it to breed a hybrid elephant. The idea behind it sounds more dire than it seems at first glance: Regenerating giants must populate Siberia’s tundra at minus 40 degrees, protect permafrost from thawing and turn it back into meadow.
For many years, George Church, a professor of genetics at the renowned Harvard University in the United States, has been stirring up the world of science with this plan. Now his team reports that an investor has been found who wants to finance the gigantic task. According to a report in the British “Guardian”, the biotech company Colossal is backing the researchers with US$15 million. The money will be used to fund the process in which DNA is taken from a mummified mammoth baby and mixed with the DNA of an Asian elephant. From this an embryo is to be made, which is either inserted into an elephant cow or grown artificially. In just a few years, researchers expect the first elephant calves.
“Our goal is to create an elephant that is immune to the cold and behaves – and looks like – a giant,” Harvard Professor Church told the newspaper. According to their original belief, the tundra at the time of the woolly mammoth consisted of grasslands, which were greatly facilitated by animals. They cut the moss, cut down the trees and fertilized them with their droppings. As Harvard researchers plan, test tube mammoths shouldn’t do much anymore: they must cut down trees and trample the ground to keep the permafrost from thawing.
“the last thing to do”
A fellow researcher at Church thinks the idea is alarming: In forested areas of the Arctic, trees and moss “are critical to protecting permafrost,” Professor Gareth Phoenix of the University of Sheffield told the Guardian. Removing trees and trampling the moss will be the “last job”.
Victoria Herridge, an evolutionary biologist at the Natural History Museum in London, also questions the practicality: You need “hundreds of thousands of mammoths” for this experiment. Giant cows will be 22 months pregnant and it will take 30 years for the animals to become adults. Beth Shapiro, paleontologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz, reported her suspicions in the “New York Times”: Most of all, climate change is happening too quickly; He fears that evolution is too slow to save many species.
But first Church and his team would have to be able to actually resurrect the animals. This is also not an easy undertaking. It’s easy to explain that this is the giant of all things: this species has sufficiently well-preserved DNA because the animals were preserved in permafrost soils. In order not to have to resort to countless elephant surrogate mothers, the church plans to create an artificial giant uterus from stem cells. “I dare not say that it will be easy,” said the researcher himself.
Introvert. Proud beer specialist. Coffee geek. Typical thinker. Pop culture trailblazer. Music practitioner. Explorer.