The problem of animal extinction is still a dilemma facing humanity, and from time to time scientists come up with new studies that may change something.
What is new today is that a team of scientists and businessmen announced the launch of a new company to genetically revive the woolly mammoth, but this announcement sparked a wave of criticism that made the new company subject to ethical questions.
In details, the Colossal company announced that its goal is to revive thousands of this genetically huge animal, thousands of years after its extinction, according to a report published by the New York Times.
The information indicated that the biologist at Harvard Medical School, George Church, has been leading a small team of researchers for 8 years to develop the tools necessary to revive the mammoth, considering the start of the company’s work as a milestone that will make a big difference in the world, as he put it.
The company, which received $15 million in seed funding, is also set to support research in Dr. Church’s lab and conduct experiments in its own labs in Boston and Dallas.
Former researcher in Dr. Church’s lab, Iriona Hesoli, will oversee the new company’s efforts to modify the Asian elephant’s DNA, adding genes for mammoth traits such as thick hair and thick fat to withstand cold.
In addition, researchers at the new company hope to produce embryos from these mammoth-like elephants within a few years, and eventually to produce entire groups of animals.
Serious ethical questions
And if Colossal manages to produce mammoth-like elephants, the company will face serious ethical questions, whether it is humane to produce an animal whose biology we know so little about, and who decides whether the animal can be left freely.
“There are a lot of problems everyone will run into along the way,” said Beth Shapiro, a paleontologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz and author of “How to Clone a Mammoth.”
Conversely, other researchers are deeply skeptical that Colossal will accomplish such a monumental feat.
It is noteworthy that the woolly mammoth is an animal that lived in the modern era and a contemporary of humans, but the breed disappeared about 10 thousand years ago, while the closest surviving species similar to it remained due to the Asian elephant family.
Because Asian elephants and mammoths share a common ancestor that lived about 6 million years ago, an expert thinks it may be possible to modify the elephant’s DNA to produce something that looks and behaves like a mammoth.