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International scientists may clone woolly mammoth by 2017

by Jorge Hernandez on January 18, 2011

A team of international scientists from the United States, Japan and Russia announced that they are working on resurrecting the ancient woolly mammoth, a species that has been extinct for the past 8,000 years, and that they may be able to do so within the next six years. If cloned successfully, the resurrected mammoth's genes and ecology could give scientists new insight into why the species became extinct at the end of the last Ice Age.

The cloning process would require intact DNA from the mammoth and a modern-day elephant to act as the surrogate mother. The pregnancy itself would require approximately 600 days.

The initiative has been underway since 1997, and attempts as recent as 2008 have failed due to inadequate cloning technology. Since then, however, scientists have come up with ways to extract DNA that is thousands of years old, the Toronto Sun reports.

According to the Daily Mail, scientists have so far been able to generate mammoth blood using DNA found in bones as well as glean the mammoth's genetic code using hairs frozen in Siberian ice.

In order to obtain sufficient DNA for cloning, however, scientists will have to find a relatively intact, frozen specimen with enough genetic material for the process, which they hope to achieve on an upcoming expedition to Siberia.

A less ideal option would be to take tissue samples from a mammoth already in their collection, though scientists only need one square inch of material, the news source reports.

The scientists are led by Kyoto University's Akira Iritani, whose research has been linked to the successful mouse cloning by Teruhiko Wakayama of Kobe's Riken Center for Developmental Biology. Wakayama developed a method of extracting egg nuclei while keeping them intact, CNN reports.

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