Previous efforts in the 1990s to recover nuclei in cells from the skin and muscle tissue from mammoths found in the Siberian permafrost failed because they had been too badly damaged by the extreme cold. But a technique pioneered in 2008 by Dr. Teruhiko Wakayama, of the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology, was successful in cloning a mouse from the cells of another mouse that had been frozen for 16 years.
Now that hurdle has been overcome, Akira Iritani, a professor at Kyoto University, is reactivating his campaign to resurrect the species that died out 5,000 years ago. All they need is a good sample of soft tissue from a frozen mammoth
Professor Iritani said he estimates that another two years will be needed before the elephant can be impregnated, followed by the approximately 600-day gestation period.
He has announced plans to travel to Siberia in the summer to search for mammoths in the permafrost and to recover a sample of skin or tissue that can be as small as 3cm square. If he is unsuccessful, the professor said, he will ask Russian scientists to provide a sample from one of their finds.
“The success rate in the cloning of cattle was poor until recently but now stands at about 30 per cent,” he said. “I think we have a reasonable chance of success and a healthy mammoth could be born in four or five years.”
Mouse cloned from cells frozen for 16 years
In 2008, a RIKEN research team led by genetic scientist Teruhiko Wakayama successfully demonstrated a promising new cloning technique by replicating frozen laboratory mice whose cells were severely damaged after 16 years in permafrost-like conditions (-20 degrees Celsius).
Previous attempts at plans for Mammoth recreation and Pleistocene Park in Siberia that would be twice the size of Japan
Iritani, a leading member of the Mammoth Creation Project — a Japanese organization that aims to resurrect the woolly mammoth by cloning frozen specimens — estimates as many as 10,000 frozen mammoth specimens lie buried in ice around the world, waiting to be cloned.
Iritani also coordinates the “Pleistocene Park” project, which aims to set up a Jurassic Park-like sanctuary in northern Siberia populated with resurrected mammoths and other creatures that roamed the Earth 20,000 years ago. The envisioned park would cover an area twice the size of Japan and include woolly rhinos, Siberian tigers, steppe lions, giant deer, ancient foxes, and ancestors of the Siberian horse.
Kazufumi Goto, head scientist at the Mammoth Creation Project, described a previous attempt to revive the Mammoth in 2005 (they have been trying since before 1999). The venture was privately funded and includes researchers from various institutions in Japan.
Their old plan: to retrieve sperm from a mammoth frozen in tundra, use it to impregnate an elephant, and then raise the offspring in a safari park in the Siberian wild.
The scientists with the Mammoth Creation Project were hoping to find a mammoth that is sufficiently well preserved in the ice to enable them to extract sperm DNA from the frozen remains.
They will then inject the sperm DNA into a female elephant, the mammoth’s modern-day counterpart. By repeating the procedure with offspring, scientists say, they could produce a creature that is 88 percent mammoth within 50 years.
“This is possible with modern technology we already have,” said Akira Iritani, who is chairman of the genetic engineering department at Kinki University in Japan and a member of the Mammoth Creation Project.
The Pleistocene is more accessible because the ice age froze many physical samples and kept them preserved.
They already started a Pleistocene Park in Siberia
Pleistocene Park is a nature reserve south of Chersky in the Sakha Republic in northeastern Siberia, where an attempt is being made to recreate the northern steppe grassland ecosystem that flourished in the area during the last ice age.
The effort is being led by Russian researcher Sergey Zimov.
Pleistocene Park is a 160 square kilometer scientific nature reserve (zakaznik), owned and administered by a non-profit corporation, Pleistocene Park Association, consisting of the ecologists from the Northeast Science Station in Chersky and the Grassland Institute in Yakutsk. The reserve is surrounded by a 600 km^2 buffer zone that will be added to the park by the regional government, once the animals have successfully established themselves.
Animals already present in the park:
Carnivores: Eurasian Lynx, Grey Wolf, Arctic Fox, Eurasian Brown Bear, Wolverine, Red Fox
Herbivores: Reindeer, Elk, Snow Sheep, Wood Bison, Moose, Yakut Pony
Animals considered or suggested for reintroduction:
Carnivores: Amur Leopard, Siberian Tiger, Asiatic Lion
Herbivores: Yak, Saiga antelope, Muskox, Bactrian Camel, Woolly Mammoth, Roe Deer.
28 page University bioethics workshop – BRINGING BACK WOOLLY MAMMOTHS? a case study Looking at the Mammoth Genome Project at Pennsylvania State University.