Claim: Live cells found in mammoth remains
Asian scientists still believe they may be able to resurrect the long-extinct woolly mammoth, but don’t expect to see the Ice Age behemoths at your local zoo any time soon.
A team of Russian and South Korean researchers said they had discovered mammoth tissue fragments buried under meters of permafrost in eastern Siberia that could contain living cells.
“The existence of the cells – perhaps too few to achieve successful cloning, and treated with skepticism by many stem cell scientists – must still be confirmed by a South Korean lab,” according to Agence-France Presse.
But expedition member Sergei Fyodorov of Russia’s Northeastern Federal University said the discovery in the far north of the vast Yakutia region of eastern Siberia could lead to actual woolly mammoth cloning attempts.
“We discovered the mammoth tissue fragments in eastern Siberia in early August,” Fyodorov told the wire service.
“It seems that some of the cells still have a living nucleus. We saw that with portable microscopes on the spot – the cells appeared in color,” he said.
However, the project has raised eyebrows in the scientific community.
Many doubt that “permafrost could keep anything alive for millennia and eventually give humans a chance to recreate extinct animals that once roamed the planet,” Agence France-Presse reported.
Part of the skepticism may come from the fact that one of the participants in the expedition was South Korean cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-Suk of South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.
Hwang was hailed as a national hero until some of his research into creating human stem cells was found in 2006 to have been faked.
On the other hand, his work in creating Snuppy, the world’s first cloned dog, in 2005, has been verified by experts.
Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency cautioned in a commentary that “the cloning of mammoths is being indefinitely postponed” because the find – whatever it may have contained – was too small.
The woolly mammoth is believed to have emerged at least 150,000 years ago, and inhabited North America and northern Eurasia.