When researchers from Japan and Russia transplanted cell nuclei from a woolly mammoth from the Siberian permafrost into mice eggs, they noticed biological activity. This puts them a major step forward in bringing the animal back from extinction.
In 2010, the remains of a woolly mammoth calf named Yuka was found in the Sakha Republic of Russia’s Far East that they believe was around 28,000 years old. They removed the cell nuclei from the remains and transplanted them in the eggs of mice and that’s when they saw the early stages of cell division.
They took nuclei from muscle cells that were in fairly good condition in order to find out if they could function after being transplanted. Since cells contain DNA, just prior to dividing, they form chromosomes that end up getting pulled from spindle fibers.
The team of researchers put 24 cell nuclei into mice eggs and noticed that in 21 of the eggs, proteins that create chromosomes gathered around the cell nuclei. And in 5 of those 21 eggs, the proteins that create the spindle had also begun to form. Unfortunately, none of them ended up with full cell division and they believe it was probably because of damage to the DNA.
Satoshi Kurosaka from the Institute of Advanced Technology at Kindai University in Japan and who was also involved with the research, said, “We hope to find a mammoth that has been better preserved.”
Even though the cells were unable to fully divide, it’s still a major step forward in bringing back the extinct animal. What they hope to eventually accomplish is to transplant the cell nucleus of a woolly mammoth into the egg of an elephant in order to fertilize the egg with the genes of the animal. At that point, they would transplant the fertilized egg into the uterus of an elephant in hopes of giving birth to a mammoth.
The woolly mammoth lived during the last ice age and may have died off due to warmer weather which changed their food supply. They are believed to have been around the same size as an African elephant but their ears were smaller in size than those of elephants we see today. Their smaller ears could have been because of the cold climate which kept them closer to their heads in order to stay warm. Their tusks, however, were around 15 feet long and were used for digging into the deep snow and for fighting. They were herbivores that mostly fed on grass but they also ate flowers and plants.
Although researchers still have a ways to go in bringing the woolly mammoth back, this new research gives new hope that someday soon we may see a once-extinct animal brought back to new life.