Fifteen million dollars (approximately 12.7 million euros) to renew wool mummies, George Church, an American geneticist at Harvard University who disappeared 4,000 years ago, wants to recreate in the laboratory thanks to advances in genetics in the past years.
The investment, CNN reports, came from high-tech entrepreneur Ben Lam, who co-founded Colossus, a biological and genetic company with the Church, precisely to implement the project.
The goal is not to clone the mammoth, because the DNA that researchers were able to extract from the remains of frozen wool mummies in permafrost has been so scattered and degraded: starting from the DNA of the Asian elephant, the church team – genetically engineered – is an elephant-like species similar to its extinct predecessors.
“Our goal is to have the first children in the next four to six years,” Lam explains. Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, commented that the investment was a key step in research in this area. So far this project has been “in the background, obviously … but now we can actually do it”, the Church comments: “It will change everything”.
His team has studied the genes of 23 species of living elephants and endangered species, and scientists estimate that “more than 50 changes” must be planned simultaneously to the Asian elephant’s genetic code to give it the characteristics it needs to survive in the Arctic. . The Church explains that features such as the 10 cm layer of insulating fat and small ears help the hybrid to better cope with the cold.
But there is no shortage of doubts in the scientific community. According to Love Talon, an evolutionary genetics lecturer at the Stockholm Center for Paleogenetics, the church’s work has scientific value, especially when it comes to protecting endangered species. However, Dalen wonders what the progress of the research will be: “First – he underscores – you won’t get a mammoth, but a fat-haired elephant”.
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