Mammoth Remains Found in Russia Give Glimmer of Hope for Cloning

Scientists have discovered frozen woolly mammoth fragments that may contain living cells deep in Siberia, bringing closer the possibility of cloning the extinct animal.

A Russian-led expedition has found what it says are well preserved mammoth remains in Siberia but has downplayed reports that the material could be used to clone the ancient beast. Photo: Travis S./Flickr

International team of scientists who found well preserved woolly mammoth remains in a remote part of Russia hope they might contain the necessary material to clone the long extinct beast.

Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University said an international team of researchers had discovered mammoth hair, soft tissues and bone marrow some 328 feet (100 meters) underground during a summer expedition in the northeastern province of Yakutia, reports The Huff Post.

The next step will be to search for living cells among the material which was preserved in the Siberian permafrost, said the Russian scientist Semyon Grigoryev who led the expedition with members from the United States, Canada, South Korea, Sweden and Great Britain.

“All we need for cloning is one living cell, which means it can reproduce autonomously. Then it will be no problem for us to multiply them to tens of thousands cells,” said Grigoryev, a professor at North-East Federal University (NEFU).

However, Reuters writes, media reports that the scientists were close to making a “Jurassic Park”-style breakthrough by bringing the giant mammal back to life after thousands of years of extinction, were exaggerated.

“We are counting on our region’s permafrost to have kept some cells alive. But it is unlikely,” said Grigoryev, adding that the remains would need to have been at a stable temperature between -4 and -20 Celsius (between 28 and -4 Fahrenheit) for any cells to remain alive.

Grigoryev explained that there had been a translation error as the word “intact” had been translated from English into Russian as “living”.

“What we have found are intact cells, with a whole nucleus,” he said.

According to Global Post, intact cells matter could potentially be used to clone a living wooly mammoth, although it wouldn’t exactly be an easy process.

“Only after thorough laboratory research will it be known whether these are living cells or not,” Grigoryev said, adding that would take until the end of the year at the earliest.

To determine whether the cells are living, they will be examined by a South Korean scientist, Hwang Woo Suk, whose Sooam Biotech has done several animal clonings, including the world’s first commercial dog cloning.

Earlier this year, a baby wooly mammoth was discovered in Siberia, a remarkable find that appears to have been butchered by early humans.

The idea of cloning a wooly mammoth is not new, as Russian and Japanese scientists announced they would attempt to clone cells from the marrow of a mammoth thigh bone in December of 2011.

Moreover, scientists have made several attempts to revive mammoths using cells of remains since 1990s, none of them successful.

Mammoths first appeared in the Pliocene Epoch, 4.8 million years ago, writes The BBC.

Is remains unclear what caused their widespread disappearance at the end of the last Ice Age; but climate change, overkill by human hunters, or a combination of both could have been to blame.

Most were gone by about 10,000 years ago, although one population lived on in isolation on Russia’s remote Wrangel Island until about 5,000 years ago.

Russian Siberia boasts a profusion of remarkable mammoth remains, as the ancient creatures are often remarkably well-preserved by the region’s persistent permafrost. Scientists have been pulling finds out Siberia’s chill for well over a hundred years now, starting with the Berezovka mammoth find in 1901.

Share this article

We welcome comments that advance the story directly or with relevant tangential information. We try to block comments that use offensive language, all capital letters or appear to be spam, and we review comments frequently to ensure they meet our standards. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Coinspeaker Ltd.