Japanese scientists revived cell parts of extinct Woolly Mammoth

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Yuka Woolly Mammoth
The frozen calf "Yuka" (Image: Wikimedia under CC 4.0 license)

A team of Japanese scientists has woken up cells of Woolly Mammoth, that walked on earth 28,000 years ago. Researchers extracted bone marrow and muscle tissue from the carcass of a mammoth named Yuka, about 3.5-meter-long female who was lain frozen in Siberian permafrost in 2010.

The team includes researchers from Japanese and Russian universities. They have been working for 20 years on a project to use cloning to revive extinct mammoths using a technique called ‘somatic cell nuclear transfer‘.

“Our work provides a platform to evaluate the biological activities of nuclei in extinct animal species. Ancient species carry invaluable information about the genetic basis of adaptive evolution and factors related to extinction.”, the report read.

Scientists injected cell nuclei from the extinct woolly mammoth’s muscle tissue into mouse ova, in which five out of 43 nuclei were observed to develop signs of biological activities. The biological activities detected in the mouse eggs cells included a type of structural formation that is seen prior to cell division. But the pre-division development stopped before completion in all the ova.

Woolly Mammoth Cell Activity
Red and green dyed proteins around a mammoth cell nucleus (upper right) in a mouse oocyte (Kindai University)

“Yuka’s cell nuclei were more damaged than we thought, and it would be difficult to resurrect a mammoth as things stand. There’s a chance if we can obtain better-preserved nuclei.”, said team member Kei Miyamoto, a lecturer in developmental biology at Kindai University.

Teruhiko Wakayama, a professor in reproductive biology at the University of Yamanashi’s Advanced Biotechnology Center, said: “This can be praised as the first step in research toward the dream of resurrecting extinct ancient animals. I hope they can determine to what extent the DNA was repaired and how much activity there was.”

This finding might not help to resurrect animals of the ice age but might give us a way to understand the species that roamed on earth 28,000 years ago.

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