The technology and software entrepreneur Ben Lamm and the world-famous geneticist Dr. George Church started a new company called Colossal. An elephant-mammoth hybrid is to be created with funding of 11 million pounds
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Woolly mammoths could be brought back from extinction to help tackle climate change in Siberia, claims a new project.
The prospect of recreating mammoths and bringing them back into the wild has been debated for over a decade, but yesterday researchers announced the creation of a new company that could bring the plan to life.
The technology and software entrepreneur Ben Lamm and the world-famous geneticist Dr. George Church founded Colossal – a project with the hope of using genetic engineering to modify the genome of Asian elephants in order to turn them into modern “mammoths”.
Extinction of creatures, which could reach a height of about 3 to 12 feet and weigh up to six tons, has been linked to climate change.
Bringing them back could help restore their original habitat, scientists have claimed
Colossal has raised $ 15 million (£ 11 million) and the researchers now plan to create an elephant-mammoth hybrid by creating embryos in the laboratory that carry mammoth DNA.
The aim of the project is to restore lost habitats by returning extinct species that once lived there. In Siberia this will include the revitalization of the arctic grasslands.
Lamm said in a press release: “Never before has humanity been able to harness the power of this technology to rebuild ecosystems, heal our earth and preserve its future by repopulating extinct animals.
“Not only will we be bringing back ancient extinct species like the woolly mammoth, but we will also be able to use our technologies to conserve endangered species and restore animals that humanity contributed to their extinction.”
Mammoths became extinct 10,000 years ago, but some isolated populations survived around the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean until about 4,000 years ago.
Lamm added: “Our goal is not only to bring back the mammoth, but also herds that are capable of breeding and that have been successfully reintroduced to the Arctic region.”
Professor Church, 67, is considered the founder of synthetic biology and works at Harvard Medical School.
In 2015, he and his team used Crispr gene editing technology to splice frozen woolly mammoth genes into the DNA of skin cells from an Asian elephant.
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He said The guard : “Our goal is to create a cold-resistant elephant, but it will look and act like a mammoth.
“Not because we’re trying to cheat anyone, but because we want something that is functionally equivalent to the mammoth, that enjoys its time at -40 ° C and does all the things that elephants and mammoths do, especially cut down trees.”
To recreate an elephant-mammoth hybrid, scientists would have to sequence the genome of the woolly mammoth from a well-preserved specimen.
They would then compare the ancient genome to the modern Asian elephant to identify the genes responsible for mammoth hair, insulating layers of fat, and other adaptations to the cold climate.
The embryos would then be carried in a surrogate mother or in an artificial uterus.
If all steps go as expected, the researchers hope to have their first calves in six years.
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However, some experts have expressed skepticism that creating elephant-mammoth hybrids is the best way to restore arctic habitat.
Victoria Herridge, evolutionary biologist at the Natural History Museum, told The Guardian, “The idea that mammoths could geoengineer the arctic environment is implausible. The extent to which this experiment would have to be carried out is enormous.
“You speak of hundreds of thousands of mammoths, each of which takes 22 months to grow and 30 years to grow to maturity.”
Gareth Phoenix, an ecologist who works at the University of Sheffield, said a “variety of different approaches” are needed to address climate change.
He warned that the introduction of elephant-mammoth hybrids in the Arctic could have “unexpected consequences” on the environment.
He added that removing trees and moss in the area could harm the environment as they are critical to protecting permafrost.
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