How Close Are We To Cloning A Woolly Mammoth? Fuckin’ Close, Bros. Fuckin’ Close
RAWWR. STOMP STOMP STOMP. BLARWRAGHH!
Look at those things, Bros. Those are Woolly Mammoths, and they are the white whale of the cloning community. (Actually, everything is, since we haven’t cloned shit, but we really, really want to clone these fuckers.)
[Quick interjection: Appropriate listening for this post is Wooly Bully by Sam The Sham & Pharaohs. Crank that shit]
So ever since science first cloned a lamb–Dolly, remember Dolly? You don’t remember Dolly, you were like three–science has been interested in cloning bigger and better things. And what’s bigger than a lamb? Well, a lot of things. A bison and a horse and 10,000 coffee mugs and a hockey team and the ocean, among other things. But what’s bigger than a lamb and is extinct and fuck it, why shouldn’t we bring animals back from the dead?
The answer to that Venn Diagram, shown below, is a woolly mammoth.
Forever, science has wanted to clone this bitch. But it’s a fickle beast. Mostly because it no longer exists. From a fascinating Washington Post piece on the possibility of cloning one.
When Dolly the sheep was cloned from the mammary cell of a Finn-Dorset sheep in 1996, the public imagined growing identical copies of all sorts of animals. The process, known as somatic cloning, tempted us with the idea that if we could obtain just a single working nucleus from any cell, we could reproduce the entire animal.
Scientists’ minds jumped quickly to woolly mammoths, which became extinct 4,000 years ago. The frozen carcasses that occasionally emerge from the Earth’s melting permafrost offer a trove of well-preserved soft tissue and hair.
Of course, dreams and reality are two totally different things. If they weren’t I would shit money and be living inside a piranha tank while being chased by the cops. My dreams are weird. However, this dream is getting closer to a reality.
The University of Pennsylvania has made major progress reconstructing the mammoth’s genome. Two groups of scientists have announced plans to clone the mammoth. They’re pursuing cloning to broaden our scientific understanding of the animals and hoping that putting mammoths back into certain Arctic habitats could help those ecosystems to function better after the relatively brief interval since they disappeared.
Yes, that will totally, totally, totally work. Let’s throw these animals who haven’t lived in the world since times before Christ, and who have developed no skills through evolution, right into the wild. They won’t be killed by bears on the first day.
MAMMOTH: Hi, I’m new here.
BEAR: Okay, nice to meet yo–Attack, bears!
How are they gonna do this? Well, I’ll tell you one thing, it ain’t gonna be easy. but we are getting closer. First off, the entire Mammoth genome needed to be sequenced. A process almost completed.
By reconstructing the mammoth genome through a mosaic of samples, scientists might be able to engineer a cell nucleus and then use the somatic cloning method that led to Dolly the sheep.
What scientists have been able to get out of frozen mammoths is partial DNA. No single cell has given up a complete genome on its own, but by analyzing different samples from various mammoths, scientists with Pennsylvania State University’s Mammoth Genome Project appear close to publishing a complete woolly mammoth genome. In a separate effort, Kevin Campbell of the University of Manitoba has used a fragment of DNA to replicate the oxygen-bearing hemoglobin that mammoths used to make.
That’s the easy part.
Packing an artificially reconstructed genome into the nucleus of a mammal’s cell and making it function has never been done, and it would be a feat worthy of a Nobel Prize. With enough time and money, it may be possible to use a polymerase chain reaction (a way of copying small parts of DNA) to make millions of copies of Penn State’s genome and place them into a modern elephant’s living cell. Then scientists could prompt cell division and start growing a line of woolly mammoth cells. If they got that far, it isn’t a stretch to suggest that they could fuse nuclei from those cells into elephant egg cells, stimulate them with an electrical current and start making blastocysts (very early-stage embryos), in much the same way that Dolly the sheep and many other mammals have been cloned.
Yea. Let’s do that. That strikes me as a normal thing people should do. Merge an elephant and an extinct species for NO fucking reason.
Thankfully, the elephants are not cooperating with us building a world-ending beast.
Working with elephants is not as simple as working with lab mice.
No shit? Maybe it has something to do with shoving a woolly mammoth embryo inside a female elephant’s uterus and asking it to birth that heinous creature.
According to Dennis Schmitt, a professor of veterinary science at Southwest Missouri State University and global specialist in elephant reproductive health, there are probably not enough captive Asian elephants of breeding age left to create a suitable pool of surrogate mothers.
“Already we’re at a critical level in terms of maintaining a population in North America. You would be talking about putting an embryo in — you have to use a female who had already had a calf if you aren’t going to do it surgically. Elephants have a hymen before they have a calf. There are too many challenges to begin with without doing abdominal surgery in elephants without a specific medical reason.”
Also, forget that part about not having enough elephants. Even if we did, we suck at making elephants make our science babies, even when they are actual elephant science babies and not ghastly science mammoth babies.
Attempts at breeding captive elephants have been disappointing. Many have irregular cycles or never go into estrus, and artificial insemination usually fails. On the 27 occasions when the technique has resulted in pregnancy at American zoos, eight ended in miscarriages or stillbirths. Six more calves died soon after birth. Globally, only 45 Asian elephants were born in captivity in 2013 by either natural or artificial means.
Already we are blaming them.
In the long run, the trouble with making a mammoth will not be the mammoth. It will be the elephant. Perhaps the future of more than one species is at stake.
Talk about fucking victim blaming.
But whatever, Bros. We’re gonna have some mammoths one day. And it’s your job to get drunk and tip ’em.
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