14 Mar 2012

There has been hope for a few years now about the concept of re-animating and re-creating the woolly mammoth, but such progress has been impeded by the lack of undamaged mammoth genes, until now.  Last August, paleontologists reported discovering a well-preserved mammoth's thigh bone in Siberia which raised the chances of a successful cloning procedure.  The mammoth became extinct about 10,000 years ago.  Scientists from South Korea and Russia have signed onto the cloning project, which seems like something from Jurassic Park. 

Adding to the controversy is the fact that a disgraced cloning expert from South Korea is in the project.  Hwang Woo-Suk, who is now with South Korea's Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, was found to have falsified data that claimed a stem cell research breakthrough and had to resign his post at Seul National University in 2009.  In 2005, Suk reported his team came up with a procedure to clone individual stem cells from 11 patients.  The papers were later found in 2006 to be fake.  He was also later convicted of embezzlement.

Despite these troubles, Suk has notoriety in his country as the first scientist to clone a dog.  Scientists in Russia have been trying for years to clone the mammoth, only to be blocked by a lack of good mammoth nuclei, until the August discovery.

If the scientists can find nuclei with undamaged genes, they will implant the embryos into an elephants womb for delivery.  The elephant is considered close enough in relation to the mammoth for such a cloning experiment.

Such attempts to bring back extinct species raise questions.  If a species was driven extinct, either by human or natural influence, should we be attempting such resurrections?  Also, yes they are movies, but look at attempts to tinker with DNA in science fiction such as Jurassic Park and The Fly and you can think of various scenarios where things may go wrong especially when you mess with mother nature.

Source:  Physorg.com; Image:  Huffingtonpost

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