After an exciting discovery earlier this year of a well-preserved strawberry-blond Wolly Mammoth with soft tissue and hair, scientists have announced an even more startling find: a mammoth with ‘living’ cells.
According to the Associated Press, the team discovered mammoth hair, soft tissues and bone marrow at a depth of 328 feet during a summer expedition. Up to this point, Mammoth DNA, a long-sought Holy Grail for cloning scientists, has been found damaged due to freezing. Should the find hold up after laboratory tests, it would be a giant boon for the field.
“It seems that some of the cells still have a living nucleus. We saw that with portable microscopes on the spot — the cells appeared in colour,” said Sergei Fyodorov of Russia’s Northeastern Federal University.
A Russian news agency, however, rained on everyone’s parade by saying the find was too small to have any impact on cloning. For now, the living cells are being sent to a lab for more tests. Verification of the discovery could take until the end of the year.
While some question the desire to clone animals long-extinct when we can’t even save those endangered today, at least one organization sees the push to resurrect dead species as beneficial to future conservation.
The X-Prize Foundation is developing a “Jurassic Park Prize” to be offered to the first scientific team to bring an extinct species back to life.
“Given the march of technology and the expansion of humanity over the surface of Earth, we are living during one of the highest rates of species extinction in the history of this planet,” the site says. “The goal of this X PRIZE is to find a safe, repeatable, and reliable fashion to bring back extinct species to rebuild a population.”
Steven Spielberg, who directed the first two “Jurassic Park” films, has reportedly been approached to help fund the prize. “He is fascinated by this stuff,” said a source.