Despite the doubts expressed by the scientific community, various research groups in the world, from Russia, China, the USA, are looking for the genetic way to revive mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius), extinct after the last ice age.

The closest to making the feat seems to be the American team at Harvard University, with the Woolly Mammoth Revival project. "Our first step will be to give life to an elephant with numerous traits of mammoths: we are in fact creating an embryo of" elephant-mammoth ", and we are quite sure of succeeding in a couple of years, " said George Church, project coordinator. They would therefore not be true woolly mammoths, but elephants with genetic elements of their ancient relatives.

Image The DNA used in these researches has been extracted from artifacts found in the Siberian permafrost. |

How much mammoth is in you. Church's group works with the genetic heritage of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), which already contain some distinctive genes of the extinct species. But if "the first step" is successful, Church foreshadows a much more ambitious goal: the de-extinction of the mammoth.

The project began in 2015 with the extraction of DNA fragments from frozen remains recovered in the Siberian permafrost. At the time the researchers inserted 45 mammoth genes into elephant cells to successfully prove that the technique works: "We already know how to work on the ears, subcutaneous fat, hair and blood, " says Church.

Image The mammoths became extinct with the last ice age, around 14, 000 years ago, but some populations of these animals are believed to have survived until 4-5, 000 years ago. |

Artificial uterus. Now it is a question of taking skin cells from the Asian elephant and, thanks to genetic engineering technology ( CRISPR / Cas9 ), inserting into their nucleus genes of the woolly mammoth and making them proliferate to give life to a hybrid elephant. The working group stated that the development of the embryo will be entrusted to an artificial uterus, with a technique already tested on embryos of mice, rather than looking for a carrier among the Asian elephants. According to the researcher "it would be unreasonable to put an female elephant at risk to try to bring an endangered species back to life".

Genetic editing: the CRISPR / Cas9 technique tested on humans

The work of Church and his team raises concerns about the use of genes from species extinct for thousands of years to bring them back to life or to give life to hybrid species. To criticism, however, Church replies that his work will also serve to ensure the survival of species that are now endangered.