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American geneticist George Church revives mammoth in Siberia

08.09.2018
Mammoth, Science

The scientist intends by recovering DNA to get resistant to cold elephants and settle them in the Arctic.
Geneticist from the US Professor Harvard George Church in Yakutia presented a project for the revival of the extinct mammoth in the arctic part of Siberia 10,000 years ago. The Academy of Sciences of Yakutia says that the scientific approach to the revival of the mammoth is very relevant, and it is the American way with the change in DNA that looks most realistic. The authorities of the Republic of Yakutia are still indifferent to the idea.

The visiting professor of Harvard George Church visited Russia in a research station in the Nizhnekolymsky district, where it is planned to create a Pleistocene park (a reserve in the lower reaches of Kolyma - Kommersant). In it, Russian scientists intend to recreate the ecosystem that dominated the Arctic in the late Pleistocene (the epoch that began 126,000 years ago and ended 11,700 years ago - Kommersant) - the ecosystem of mammoth steppes. Experiments on the resettlement of animals began in 1988. Now here you can meet horses, musk oxen, bison, elks and reindeer. A place in the park will be allocated to the mammoth, which is supposed to be revived with the help of modern bioengineering technologies. Scientists Sergey and Nikita Zimov create a unified engineering system on the territory of the station to restore the grass cover of the tundra in order to protect the permafrost from melting.

As explained George Church in an interview with the TV channel "Yakutia 24", everything that got into the atmosphere must return to the ground through the grass, and frost-resistant mothers should help in this. "We will make them more stable so that they can live in the North along with other herbivores and eat trees, so that the grass appears in their place. We hope that they will be able to live in the vast territory of Siberia, in Canada and in Alaska. In general, the entire Arctic occupies an area of ​​10 million square meters. km. And this is a huge territory that would help us solve the problems with the carbon footprint, "he said.

Externally, the resulting hybrid will look like a mammoth: with a short coat on the head and a long one on the trunk, but from the genetic point of view it will be more like an elephant than a mammoth.

The results of the study George Church promises to publish before the end of this year.

American scientists since 2015 are working on a project to create a mother's body. As they believe, it is necessary to identify the key genes that distinguish the mammoth from its modern relatives, and insert these fragments into the genetic code of the elephant. Scientists studied 23 genomes of different elephants. With the help of computer technology they decide which genome they want to get, and what genes should be changed in the cell of a modern elephant. In total, about 44 changes in the genetics of the elephant will be required.

Russian scientists observe with interest the work of their American colleagues and consider them promising. Thus, Mikhail Grigoriev, deputy director of the Permafrost Institute of the SB RAS, told Kommersant that the return of mammoths to the places where they lived would be quite natural. Conditions of nutrition there are favorable. At the same time, the scientist doubts that the improved species of mammoth will be able to reproduce efficiently, and even if it is possible to obtain single individuals, they will be kept in a park in a limited space.

According to Albert Protopopov, the head of the mammoth fauna research department of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the scientific approach to the revival of the mammoth is very relevant, and it is the American way with the change of DNA that looks most real. In addition to Americans, Japanese and Korean scientists are engaged in the topic, seeking to find a living mammoth cell and clone an ancient giant.

Yakut scientists intend to conclude a contract for the supply of biomaterials with American counterparts.
The revival of the mammoth depends not only on DNA, but rather on solving the problem of creating an artificial uterus, Mr. Protopopov explained to Kommersant.

This is one of the main problems of the project, since intergenerational cross-breeding raises many questions for science. As for the prospects for resettlement of the revived mammoths in the Arctic territories, the scientist believes, this will enrich nature and "will bring necessary strength to the Arctic". The expert assessed the attitude of power structures to this topic as unjustifiably indifferent. "And it should be supported, because we are talking about the ecology and the future of the Arctic," he said.

In the republican Ministry of Ecology, Nature Management and Forestry, it was difficult to assess the situation, which is still "virtual in nature".