Japanese scientist hopes to clone baby woolly mammoth by 2016

Neal J Leitereg's picture

Although previous attempts to clone a woolly mammoth, a creature that has been extinct for roughly 5,000 years, have proven unsuccessful, one Japanese scientist believes he will be able to clone a baby mammoth in the next four years.

Dr. Akira Iritani, a professor emeritus at Japan's Kyoto University, indicated that successfully completing such a feat is not as farfetched as some would be led to believe.

"Preparations to realize this goal have been made," Iritani told The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sunday.

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

Previous attempts to clone a mammoth have been unsuccessful due to the fact that it has been difficult to extract viable DNA from frozen cells. Much of the mammoth tissue cells that researchers have in their possession have degraded over time, but Iritani thinks that a good tissue sample is obtainable.

"Now that the technical problems have been overcome, all we need is a good sample of soft tissue from a frozen mammoth," said Iritani in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

With a viable tissue sample, nuclei from the mammoth cells would be removed and inserted into egg cells from an elephant that has previously had its nuclei removed to create an embryo containing DNA of the mammoth.

The embryo would then be placed into the womb of an African elephant, which would act as a surrogate to the mammoth.

Given the two years needed to impregnate the elephant, coupled with the 22-month gestation period, Iritani's timetable for completing such a task would be a best case scenario.

"The success rate in the cloning of cattle was poor until recently, but now stands at about 30 percent,” Iritani added. "I think we have a reasonable chance of success and a healthy mammoth could be born in four or five years."

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