NEW YORK.- Jurassic Park could stop being a blockbuster movie saga to become a reality: A group of scientists is trying to revive the woolly mammoth that disappeared 4000 years ago.
Advances in genetics in recent years are causing the resurrection of lost animals be a tangible prospect.
Scientists have already succeeded in cloning endangered animals and they can sequence DNA extracted from bones, even from long-extinct species.
Geneticists, led by specialist George Church of Harvard Medical School, They aim to bring the woolly mammoth back to life, which disappeared 4000 years ago.
They imagine, in this way, that the giant of the ice age with long fangs is restored to its natural habitat.
The experts’ efforts received a great boost in the last hours with the announcement of an investment of 15 million dollars.
Proponents of the project argue that bringing the mammoth back in an altered form could even help restore the fragile ecosystem of the Arctic tundra, combat the climate crisis, and preserve the endangered Asian elephant, with whom the woolly mammoth is most closely related. related.
However, according to scientists against the project, it is a bold plan fraught with ethical problems.
The goal, explained members of the team of geneticists, is not to clone a mammoth, as the DNA that scientists have managed to extract from the remains of a frozen woolly mammoth is too fragmented and degraded.
For this reason, they will try to create, through genetic engineering, a walking and living elephant-mammoth hybrid, which would be visually similar to its extinct predecessor.
“Our goal is to have our first animals in the next four to six years”said tech entrepreneur Ben Lamm, who along with Church co-founded Colossal, a bioscience and genetics company to support the project.
The new investment and approach brought by Lamm and his investors mark a step forward, said Robert Winthrop professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School.
“Until 2021, it’s been kind of a side project, frankly, but now we can do it,” Church said, adding: “This is going to change everything”.
“The research team has analyzed the genomes of 23 species of living elephants and extinct mammoths”, said the expert. Scientists believe they will need to program “more than 50 changes” in the Asian elephant’s genetic code at the same time to give it the traits necessary to survive and thrive in the Arctic.
Church has been at the forefront of genomics, including in the use of CRISPR, la revolutionary gene editing tool that has been described as rewriting the code of life, to alter the characteristics of living species.