In what could only seem like a deleted scene from “Jurassic Park” scientists are currently talking about resurrecting the mammoth, a species that has been extinct for nearly 10,000 years, for a price of about $10 million, the International Herald Tribune reports.
In any species that became extinct in the last 60,000 years, and from which scientists could obtain a horn, hair, fur or feathers containing keratin from museums across the world, it would be possible to reconstruct the ancient DNA after decoding it with new sequencing machines.
The reconstruction would allow scientists to discover the exact differences between the extinct animal’s DNA, and that of its closest living relative.‚ Then, with the mammoth for example, the scientists would modify the DNA in an elephant’s egg so that it would eventually, over generations, have a similar sequence to a mammoth egg.
The egg would then be “brought to term” by a female elephant, resulting in the birth of a baby mammoth.
The article states that the same could be done with Neanderthals, whose genome scientists expect to fully recover quite soon.‚ However, the challenges there would be much more prominent, especially ethically; there would be much backlash, particularly from the religious community.
According to a report in Nature, scientists Stephan Schuster and Webb Miller from Pennsylvania State University recovered a large portion of mammoth DNA from mammoth hair.
Miller and Schuster believe there would be no problems decoding the full mammoth genome for an additional $2 million in funding.
They have discovered that the African elephant genome, so far, differs from that of the mammoth at nearly 400,000 sites.‚ Those sites would have to be modified to resemble the mammoth genome so that the cell could be turned into an embryo and “brought to term” by a female African elephant.
That venture bears an estimated price tag of nearly $10 million.
DNA of cells can be modified, however the process is quite lengthy and sites can only be altered one at a time.‚ However George Church, a genome technologist at Harvard, has invented a method that can allow for the modification of up to 50,000 sites at the same time.
Schuster and Church have been in contact.
Some scientists however believe the project to be far-fetched, one even calling it “wishful thinking…with no realistic chance for success.”
Church, Schuster and Miller are still quite hopeful.