Mammoth find raises hopes of successful cloning

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A Japanese team which has been hoping to clone a mammoth says that a specimen discovered this summer looks likely to yield up the necessary DNA.

The team, from Japan's Kinki University and the Sakha Republic's mammoth museum, announced its plans last January before setting off for Siberia in search of frozen mammoth tissue.

And they've now announced that one of their finds - a thigh bone discovered in northern Sakha - contains well-preserved bone marrow with intact cell nuclei.

Global warming has decreased the proportion of the Siberian tundra that's covered with permafrost, meaning that new mammoth carcases have increasingly been coming to light. However, past efforts to recreate the mammoth - which have been going on since the 1990s - have failed as cell nuclei have been in too poor a condition.

This latest specimen, though, is reported to be in very good condition, and scientific techniques for extracting viable DNA have improved. As a result, according to Japan's Kyodo News, the Japanese team is now confident that it can replace the nuclei of egg cells from an African elephant with nuclei taken from the mammoth bone marrow.

This would create create embryos which can be implanted into elephants' wombs for gestation.

Any resulting baby mammoth would be the first to walk the earth for thousands of years. The species is believed to have largely died out at the end of the Pleistocene, 10,000 years ago, with a dwarf species hanging on for another 5,000 years.