Japanese team confident of cloning a mammoth

Posted by Kate Taylor

A Japanese team is planning to try to bring mammoths back to life after establising a way to extract DNA from their frozen cells.

The Kyoto University team is off to Siberia this summer in search of frozen mammoth tissue. If the expedition is unsuccessful, though, the team believes that suitable cells may be obtained from a mammoth preserved in a Russian research laboratory.

"Preparations to realize this goal have been made," team leader Akira Iritani, leader of the team and a professor emeritus of Kyoto University, told AP.

Previous attempts to clone the mammoth have failed because nuclei in the cells were too badly damaged by ice crystals. But in 2008, Japanese scientists succeeded in cloning a mouse from cells which had been frozen for 16 years, raising hopes for the resurrection of the mammoth.

If nuclei can be successfully extracted, they'll be inserted into egg cells from an African elephant from which the nuclei have already been removed. The aim is to create an embryo which can then be implanted into an elephant's womb.

A baby mammoth - the first to walk the planet in 5,000 years - could be the result in as little as four years.

"If a cloned embryo can be created, we need to discuss, before transplanting it into the womb, how to breed [the mammoth] and whether to display it to the public," says Iritani. "After the mammoth is born, we'll examine its ecology and genes to study why the species became extinct and other factors."