Discovery of intact woolly mammoth cells in Russia promises progress towards ‘Jurassic Park’-like cloning

Daily Brew

After an expedition to the Siberian permafrost returned with preserved woolly mammoth fragments, scientists have high hopes that this find will advance their attempts to clone one of the prehistoric creatures.

The expedition was led by Semyon Grigoryev, a professor at North-East Federal University, in Yakutsk, Russia, and included members from the United States, Canada, South Korea, Sweden and Great Britain. They discovered the remains in a tunnel dug by locals in search of rare and valuable mammoth bones. Earlier this year, the same region yielded another find, of the preserved baby mammoth that scientists named Yuka.

This latest find included fur, some soft tissue and bone marrow, which were found to contain some intact cells, with a whole nucleus. However, it is specifically intact living cells that researchers need to make their dreams of Jurassic Park-like cloning come true.

[ Related: Dinosaur die-out may have been second of two close extinctions ]

"All we need for cloning is one living cell, which means it can reproduce autonomously. Then it will be no problem for us to multiply them to tens of thousands cells," said Grigoryev, according to The Toronto Star.

Finding living cells is unlikely, according to Grigoryev, since they would have to be kept at a very stable temperature of between -4 and -20 degrees C for their entire time in the ground. Any thaw or deeper freezing the cells experienced would damage them permanently.

There is certainly some danger in pursuing this kind of experiment. At its core, Jurassic Park was a cautionary tale regarding cloning. However, with dire warnings of impending species extinctions due to climate change, even if we are successful in switching to green energy technologies, it would certainly be nice if we had the ability to repopulate any species we lost along the way.

[ Related: 'Everest of Caves' explorers return from record-breaking mission ]