Thousands of years ago, Wooly mammoths were pretty much wiped off the face of the Earth from a likely combination of climate change and over-hunting from humans. But now, about 450 generations after our ancestors armed themselves with sharpened sticks to kill mammoths, scientists are now working to revive them -- and they're actually incredibly close to doing it. Japanese and Russian researchers are suggesting that in just five short years the currently extinct Wooly mammoth may roam again thanks to advancements in cloning science, offering a bit of hope for countless other species that have already perished at the hands of humans.
A report from PhysOrg outlines the surprisingly-easy sounding process of bringing an extinct species back to life:
By replacing the nuclei of egg cells from an elephant with those taken from the mammoth's marrow cells, embryos with mammoth DNA can be produced, Kyodo said, citing the researchers. The scientists will then plant the embryos into elephant wombs for delivery, as the two species are close relatives, the report said.
Securing nuclei with an undamaged gene is essential for the nucleus transplantation technique, it said.
For scientists involved in the research since the late 1990s, finding nuclei with undamaged mammoth genes has been a challenge. Mammoths became extinct about 10,000 years ago.
According to scientists, the real breakthrough that ups the chances for a wooly redux came with the discovery of a well-preserved mammoth bone in Siberia last Summer, inside which DNA from marrow could be relatively easily harvested. Ironically, the find was made possible thanks to the region's receding ice coverage due to climate change -- the same phenomenon considered partially to blame for the species decline some 10,000 years ago.
While the notion of reviving that iconic Ice Age-era species from the emptiness of extinction is endlessly fascinating, there exists today an untold number of plants and animals on the verge of a similar fate due to the same factors which snuffed out mammoths in the first place.