What Could Go Wrong? Russian Cloning Facility Plans To Resurrect Ancient Animals, Just Like 'Jurassic Park'

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 - 12:02PM
Technology
Genetic Engineering
Wednesday, 19 September 2018 - 12:02PM
What Could Go Wrong? Russian Cloning Facility Plans To Resurrect Ancient Animals, Just Like 'Jurassic Park'
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Image Credit: Pixabay Composite
When scientists found a blood-sucking tick from the Cretaceous encased in amber, everybody went wild—"Michael Crichton was right!" we all said. "Jurassic Park is just around the corner!" But naturally, there was a hitch: the DNA in the blood had broken down, making it unusable. Meanwhile, however, Russian scientists have been unearthing incredibly well-preserved animal corpses from permafrost, including woolly mammoths, cave lions, and extinct species of horse—some of which even have intact soft tissues. Now, the Northern-Eastern Federal University of Yakutsk is looking for $5.9 million (roughly 400 million rubles) to create a state-of-the-art cloning facility to bring these animals to life.

According to the proposal, the facility would "involve laboratories sunk into permafrost" that would allow scientists to work with many different remains, which have been preserved in ice from the last Ice Age. "We study not only Pleistocene animals, another line [of research] is the study of the history of settlement of the North-East of Russia," said Dr. Lena Grigorieva, a scientist associated with the project, in a statement to the Siberian Times. "Northern ethnic groups have a unique ancient genetic structure. Such studies will help in the study of rare genetic diseases, their diagnosis, [and] prevention."

The proposed facility brings up the interesting question of zoos and safaris housing clones of extinct animals, which are already becoming a reality. Sociologist and author Carrie Friese argues that "de-extinction parks" won't be the same as regular zoos—instead of celebrating the preservation and wonder of nature, these parks will celebrate "human ingenuity." According to Friese: "The appeal is the ability to bring the passenger pigeon back, as much as seeing the passenger pigeon."

Whether or not these cloned animals become tourist attractions, the Russian cloning facility represents the latest step in science's ongoing quest to explore the past—not just through fossils, but through living, breathing animals.

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