Mammoths, the extinct pre-historic elephant like beasts, may live again if a scientist in Japan successfully clones the DNA of frozen mammoth cells. The reason why Dr. Akira Iritani, the scientist leading this project, thinks the cloning is possible is because it’s been done before using cells from a frozen mouse; this mouse had been frozen for 16 years according to PC Magazine.
Another scientist named Dr. Teruhiko Wakayam pioneered the method used to clone the mouse in 2008. Dr. Wakayam’s cloning method provides evidence that the long extinct mammoth could be replicated. Also, according to an Australian news report, more than just one mouse was cloned by Wakayam, and the cells that were cloned had actually burst which is known to damage DNA.
Akira Iritani’s plan is to insert the DNA of the woolly mammoth into an elephant’s egg using Dr. Wakayam’s technique. Iritani believes this egg will grow into a baby mammoth inside the elephant. This process of cloning a mammoth will take over two years due in part to the long gestation period the mammoth would need according to a U.K. Telegraph interview with Dr. Iritani.
Despite hopes of achieving this scientific breakthrough, cloning a mammoth does not have a 100 percent chance of success. Sascha Karberg of MIT’s Knight Science Journalism Tracker states several reasons exist to doubt this mammoth cloning experiment will work. Specifically, Karberg emphasizes a previous failed attempt by French scientists, the cellular decay that can occur over thousands of years, and the large differences between animals in previous experiments and this one.
Even if Dr. Iritani’s attempt at cloning a mammoth fails, there is another way. In a Daily Tech report by Jason Mick, the prospect of synthetic replication of mammoth DNA is explored. Furthermore, Mick suggests if mammoth DNA is accurately mapped using genetic science, frozen mammoth cells may not be necessary, and an elephant’s egg could be fertilized synthetically by inserting sequenced genes.
If effective, the cloning of a mastodon could lead to the replication of more than just mammoths. Farm animals have already been cloned, and human organs aren’t out of the question, so why would mammoths? The scientific trend seems to be geared toward achieving results ahead of any ethical concerns about the role and capacity of humans. Yet, in a sense precedence for these types of experiments has already been established by human history. That is to say, genetic experimentation has already been practiced for thousands of years with the breeding of domesticated animals and cross fertilization of agricultural products for beneficial traits.