The Real Jurassic Park: Scientists Attempt to Clone a 40,000-Year-Old Woolly Mammoth
We haven't figured out a way to clone dinosaurs yet (and would we really want to?), but we may be able to clone another prehistoric animal: the woolly mammoth.
Unlike Jurassic Park, the DNA doesn't come from an insect that bit the extinct animal, but from the woolly mammoth itself. South Korean scientists are currently collecting DNA samples from a specimen of a female woolly mammoth, dubbed "Buttercup," that died approximately 40,000 years ago, which was found preserved in Siberian permafrost last year. The scientists have been able to extract liquid blood, and are currently testing to see whether they can glean a full strand of DNA from the samples. If they are able to extract DNA, they will map the genome of the mammoth over the genome of an elephant, much like the researchers in Jurassic Park mapped the dinosaurs' DNA on the DNA of a frog.
If the geneticists are able to make an attempt to clone the animal, they would fertilize an elephant egg with the woolly mammoth DNA written over it into a female elephant's uterus so she could carry it to term. The process would likely kill the elephant, which would be upsetting to animal rights supporters, but the scientists insist that, while we've made significant progress towards this development, the actual cloning process is likely years away.
"'Bringing back the mammoth either through cloning or genetic engineering would be an extremely long process," said Dr. Insung Hwang, one of the geneticists on the project. "We're trying hard to make this possible within our generation."