Around 4,500 years ago the last of the Woolly Mammoths roamed the Earth. They had walked across Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America before they died out, but we could be seeing them again in just a few years time. If not a full on mammoth, then an elephant-mammoth hybrid.
Scientists at Harvard are using a gene editing technique to take very specific pieces of DNA out of a chromosome and insert other pieces of DNA in their place. The team has managed to make 45 edits to the DNA of an elephant, replacing the removed fragments with DNA from mammoth specimens that have been frozen in Siberia for thousands of years.
To begin with, the Harvard team are working on creating an elephant embryo that will have some features of a mammoth. For instance, thicker layers of fat to insulate against the cold, blood that is better adapted to an icy environment, and long shaggy hair.
Professor George Church, who heads the Harvard University team, said:
Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant/mammoth embryo. It would be more like an elephant with some mammoth traits. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.
If the scientists are successful in the creation of a mammoth/elephant hybrid the techniques could then be used to bring back any number of extinct animals from whom DNA is still available.
Featured image via Independent.