(CNN) – Reviving endangered species is the lifeblood of science fiction. Consider Jurassic Park and its group of dinosaurs.
However, advances in genetics make the resurrection of endangered species a definite possibility. Scientists They have already cloned dangerous animals, And DNA extracted from bones can be sequenced And the carcasses of long-extinct animals.
In this sense, geneticists led by George Church of Harvard Medical School want to resurrect a woolly manure that disappeared 4,000 years ago, imagining the future of giants with ice age traps returning to their natural habitat.
The initiative received a major boost with the announcement of an $ 15 million investment on Monday.
Objective: To create a living hybrid of elephant and mammoth
Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Nevertheless, it is a bold plan and fraught with ethical issues.
The goal is not a giant cloning – the DNA that scientists have been able to extract from the remains of frozen wool mummies in permafrost is highly disintegrated and degraded – but through genetic engineering, it creates a living hybrid of elephant and mammoth. And makes it visually indistinguishable from its extinct predecessors.
“Our goal is to have the first generation in the next four to six years,” says Ben Lam, a technology entrepreneur who co-founded the church. ColossalA biology and genetics organization to support this project.
To revive the mango tree? “Now we can really do it”
Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, says the latest investment and new approach brought by Lam and his investors is a major improvement.
“Until 2021, it was a project in the back burner, apparently … but now we can actually do it,” Church said. “It will change everything.”
The church is at the forefront of genetics, including application CRISPR, A revolutionary genetic editing tool described as rewriting life ethics in order to change the characteristics of organisms. His job is to create pigs that are compatible with the human body so that the kidney of a patient in need of transplant surgery can one day come from a pig.
“We have had to make a lot of (genetic) changes so far to be compatible with humans. In that case we have very healthy pigs that can breed and donate organs for pre-experiments at Massachusetts General Hospital,” he explained.
“With the elephant it was a different goal, but it had a similar number of changes,” he added.
More than 50 changes in the genetic code of the Asian elephant
The church said the study team had studied the genes of 23 living elephants and extinct monkeys. Scientists hope to plan “more than 50 changes” simultaneously in the Asian elephant’s genetic code to provide the traits needed to survive and grow in the Arctic.
According to the church, a 4-inch insulating layer, five different types of fluffy fur, up to a meter long, and small ears will help the hybrid to withstand the cold. The team also plans to make ivory non-existent so that ivory is not a target for poachers.
Once a cell with these and other characteristics is successfully planned, the church plans to use an artificial uterus to transfer from embryo to infant, which is 22 months old in living elephants. However, this technology is far from being established, and the Church said they do not rule out the use of elephants as parents.
I think the editing process will be good. We have a lot of experience in that, making artificial abdomen is not guaranteed, it always increases the uncertainty and delivery time, ”he said.
Love Tallon, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics Stockholm, who works on mammoths’ evolution, believes that the work done by the church and his team is of scientific value, especially regarding the protection of endangered species with genetic diseases or the absence of genetic variation as a result of reproduction.
“If endangered organisms lose important genes to themselves … the ability to return them to endangered species will be crucial,” said Tallon, who was not involved in the project.
“I’m just wondering what the big goal will be. First, you’re not going to get a mammoth. It’s a hairy elephant with some fat deposits,” he said.
“Of course, we have very little idea which mango we are making into a man. We know a little, but of course we do not know enough.”
Others say it is unethical to use live elephants as substitutes to give birth to a genetically modified animal. Dalan explained that malath and Asian elephants are as different as humans and chimpanzees.
“It works and there are no ill effects. Surrogate mothers of elephants do not die,” said Tori Herridge, an evolutionary biologist and expert at the Natural History Museum in London, who was not involved in the project.
“The idea is that by bringing mammoths back and putting them in the Arctic, you should become the best place for carbon storage in the Arctic. That’s a problem for me,” he said.
Hypothesis in doubt
Some believe that before the extinction of grazing animals such as mammoths, horses and wildebeests, the grasslands in the northern part of our planet were maintained, grass was trampled, trees were cut down, and the soil was frozen. The reintroduction of mammoths and other large mammals to these areas of ice will help revitalize these environments and slow down the dissolution of permafrost and the release of carbon.
However, both Talon and Heritage said there was no evidence to support this hypothesis, and it is hard to imagine that cold-blooded elephants would have any impact on the wildfire-fighting environment. Faster than the rest of the world.
“There’s absolutely nothing to say that placing the moons will have any effect on climate change,” Dallon said.
In the end, the proposed ultimate goal of the nomadic herdsmen as ecosystem engineers is not a bar, nor does Herritzo or Talano Church and Lam criticize the involvement in the project. Many people will be happy to pay to get close to a rental mom.
“It can be fun to show them at the zoo. I have no problem with that if you want to put them in a zoo. You know, make the kids more interested in the past,” Dalan said.
The project has no pressure to make money, Lam said. He hopes the project will translate into innovations with applications in biotechnology and healthcare. He compared the Apollo program to the way people were interested in space exploration, but it also produced incredible technology like GPS.
“I’m totally impressed. I’m technically adventurous, which could be a positive change,” said mammal expert Herridge.