28,000-Year-Old Woolly Mammoth Cells Brought Back To Life By Scientists

Cells from a woolly mammoth that died around 28,000 years ago have begun showing “signs of life” during a groundbreaking scientific experiment.

Image credit: Kindai University

The young woolly mammoth was dug out of Siberian permafrost in 2011. With the species being extinct for about 4,000 years, finding such a relatively intact specimen was big news – particularly since this one was 28,000 years old.

Scientists have since been eager to find out how viable the biological materials of the uncovered mammoth still are, all those millennia later. Now researchers at Kindai University in Japan have found that its DNA is partially intact – and apparently they are well in the game to restore this huge prehistoric mammal back among the living.

If they succeed, it could look something like this (at first).

Model depicting mammoth calf, Stuttgart. Image credit: Apotea

Anyway, it all comes down to the fact that the scientists at the university have managed to extract nuclei from the mammoth’s cells and transplant them into mouse oocytes – cells found in ovaries that are capable of forming an egg cell after genetic division.

After that, the cells from the 28,000-year-old specimen started to show “signs of biological activities.”

A time-lapse of mouse oocyte cells injected with mammoth nuclei. Kindai University/Scientific Reports

“This suggests that, despite the years that have passed, cell activity can still happen and parts of it can be recreated,” said study author Kei Miyamoto from the Department of Genetic Engineering at Kindai University.

Five of the cells even showed highly unexpected and very promising results, namely signs of activity that usually only occur immediately preceding cell division.

Frozen mammoth calf “Lyuba” – it still had food in its stomach, Royal BC Museum. Image credit: Ruth Hartnup

Establishing whether the mammoth DNA could still function wasn’t an easy task. Researchers began by taking bone marrow and muscle tissue samples from the animal’s leg. These were then analyzed for the presence of undamaged nucleus-like structures, which, once found, were extracted.

Once these nuclei cells were combined with mouse oocytes, mouse proteins were added, revealing some of the mammoth cells to be perfectly capable of nuclear reconstitution. This, finally, suggested that even 28,000-year-old mammoth remains could harbor active nuclei.

Meaning, something like, that resurrecting a specimen like this one would be quite possible.

Royal Victoria Museum, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 2018

While Miyamoto admits that “we are very far from recreating a mammoth,” plenty of researchers attempting to use gene editing to do so are confident that that achievement is around the corner. Recent efforts, using the controversial CRISPR gene editing tool, are arguably the most promising, of late.

But do we really need to resurrect a species that went extint a long time ago?

Sources: 1, 2, 3

64 COMMENTS

  1. It would be very cool to see woolly Mammoths return I just hope no one kills them since people enjoy killing things for dumb stuff money is the route of all evil and if someone comes with the right amount for mammoth hide.

  2. This is much more important than you might think. We have specimens of a lot of exstinct species that could be brought back.

  3. Awesome, how about we put this effort into finding the cure for cancer? Do we really need to bring back mammoths for our own entertainment?

    • “Do we really need to bring back mammoths for our own entertainment”

      No, its not only for “entertainment purposes”, and for me “entertainment purposes” is not one of the reason why they resurrecting extinct animals. The best answer I can say is they maybe resurrecting extinct animals to open new doors of technology -sorry for bad English

    • “how about we put this effort into finding the cure for cancer?”

      actually scientists are putting effort into finding the cure for caner, they are called “Medical virologists”. But the scientists who studies dinosaurs and fossils are called “Paleontologist.” -sorry for bad English

    • They would not cure cancer even if the capability is there. Cancer is incredibly profitable. If you think they do not place financial gains first you are very lost.

  4. I am NOT optimistic. Humans are CERTAINLY responsible for the extinction of the wooly mammoth, just like we are responsible for killing off most of the African elephants, today. Can they combine mammoth cells with modern Asian elephant cells? They are probably the closest living relatives (both have smaller ears)? Maybe including mammoth cells into living elephants over a dozen or so generations might slowly bring back a closer approximation of what a wooly mammoth was like. It takes only a moment to kill them all, but it could take generations to nurture their return.

    • We don’t know if humans are responsible. During that time a lot of megafauna died from environmental impact of Yougar Dryas event.

  5. We have a responsibility as human beings that made creatures went extinct like we did today and the humans that live back
    that killed thenn off to bring him back

  6. Bring back these extinct creatures with mixed genetics could cause development of new diseases and viruses and possibly a negative impact to modern nature. We could introduce a harmful pathogen to nature and humans.

  7. Yes of course we need to resurrect it, if possible. Humans hunted them down to extinction. Humans must fix their mistakes

    • Knock Knock, anyone home? Almost every single animal from the ice age is extinct! And not because od hunting but because of this little thing called a meteor, a meteor that caused an extreme cold period that these animals couldn’t survive.

  8. Where?
    The last mammoths alive lived on Wrangel island in the arctic 4000 years ago, while the pyramids were still being built. If we were to “resurrect” woolly mammoths a good place to have them would be on one of the arctic islands.

    Why?
    If we want to preserve the species alive today there would be immense value in learning about these lost species and why they went extinct.

  9. It seems like a tremendous waste of money – probably millions to do what? Is there some benefit to this species being alive in today’s environment? Would they even survive – and where would they live? In a cage somewhere…used for testing. Elephants are already endangered – why not put the money into a species that is at risk now and STOP an extinction from happening.

    • Because if we can do it we can bring back even more extinct species. Think of it. White rino’s returning to the wild. Tigers spreading out again, maybe even the Dodo.

      • 99% of all species that have ever lived are now extinct. Where would we stop? It would be chaos. They went extinct for a reason. Leave it.

    • What would you have us do, dump money into communities promoting population growth? There’s an idea floating around that if environmental variables would overwhelm practical application of science, humanity would likely meet its demise.

  10. sounds amazing dousent it and yes there is a but .where would they live when they lived they had thousands of miles to move around find food and water they had famalies like we do .and in todays world if the scientists managed to bring bring to life a mamoth what kind of life would it have .locked in a cage pocked and prodded .the way the world is today our wonderfull wildlife will soon be extinct so many large animals like elephants giraffs lions are being hunted and killed it may sound amazing to you but to me they could not survive in this world perhaps in the future when people want our animals to live and not be hunted to extinction .

  11. It’s said there isn’t enough habitat left for the animals alive today. So, why bring back an animal which isn’t even part of our current ecosystem? They won’t stop at making one, they’ll make a herd then later claim they’re overpopulated and need to be hunted or slaughtered.

  12. Do we really need to create a species that went extinct thousands of years ago…… No. If you are gonna do it why not just go the whole hog and recreate a tyronasaurus rex or a velocaraptor???

  13. I have seen a video / home movie of a live Mamoth, taken by a German soldier in WW2 inside Russia. I think I typed in Mamoth to search, there was another video as well.

  14. We absolutely should. Why do all articles have to ask that. If you found it interesting to write about and read, know that its 10,000 times more interesting to see.

  15. To awnser your question, yes and just because we can. I think it would bring pride to humanity and ease the sorrow of the greaving, that even something that died 20 000y ago can be resurrected if necessairy. Besides, it seems like a vain extinction, more furry creatures in our wildlife wouldnt hurt. Might even start a dodo farm

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