There is a startup in the USA that is trying to resurrect woolly mammoths using DNA extracted from the remains of these animals, preserved in ice for thousands of years. The goal? Stop the melting Arctic, protect biodiversity, and, who knows, cure diseases.
The ambitions of Colossal BioSciences live up to the name of the North American startup that is working to reverse the extinction of a species that we are used to seeing in books, movies, and museums.
The company’s CEO, Ben Lamm, explained to Expresso that the goal is to edit cells from Asian elephants, which share 99.6% of the woolly mammoth genome, making them gain characteristics similar to those of the extinct animal. Then take this hybrid species to the Arctic, restoring its ecosystem and halting the permafrost thaw.
In his words: “it is estimated that we will lose up to 50% of all biodiversity by 2050 if we do nothing. But we now have genetic tools that allow us to better ensure the preservation of species and even ‘de-extinction’. Bringing back the woolly mammoth corresponds to three main objectives: to achieve advances in gene editing that can be used for the conservation of the species, cure diseases that threaten them and human health; to develop technologies for extrauterine gestation, such as artificial wombs, and to recreate the degraded ecosystem of the Arctic, reintroducing part of the megafauna that lived there, in order to delay the thaw of the permafrost”.
Permafrost is a year-round frozen soil that occupies about 25% of the land surface of the Northern Hemisphere, mainly in Russia, Canada, and Alaska. Composed of small pieces of ice or large masses of ice, it can be a few meters or hundreds. Permafrost is also one of the biggest natural stores of carbon dioxide and methane. Global warming, however, is contributing to the melting of the ice and these greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.
Where does the woolly mammoth come in here? It is believed that by thinning the moss that came to cover the Siberian tundra and by cutting down small trees, they would be able to keep the land cooler and delay or even stop the thaw. It would take “a few thousand to have an impact on carbon supply”, says the CEO of Colossal.
With regard to pregnancy, in the first phase, Colossal is thinking of using surrogate bellies — of elephants — and then even building artificial wombs.
And why stop at the mammoth?
“If we think about this project as a whole, what we are doing is developing new technologies that, combined with existing ones, can act as a ‘de-extinction’ kit for the species, whether it’s the woolly mammoth or the white rhinoceros. north,” says Ben Lamm.
Despite the enthusiasm of the CEO of Colossal BioSciences, this project raises several ethical and practical questions. It remains to be proven that the return of the mammoths to Siberia had the expected impact, then it is questionable whether it is legitimate to implant embryos of one species in the uterus of another. And these are far from the only issues on the table.
However, the startup created in 2021, has already managed to raise 75 million dollars for this project.
Source: With Agencies