Lab-made woolly mammoths could roam the Earth once again after amazing science and new funding set a revolutionary project in motion.
Tens of thousands of years after the gigantic creatures vanished from the ecosystem, scientists want to return calves to the Arctic wild within six years.
The breakthrough came after mega-rich investor Ben Lamm and business partner George Church raised £11m for the project, The Guardian reported.
Lamm and Church’s firm Colossal specialises in gene editing software scientists will rely on to bring the woolly mammoths back from a thousands-of-years-old grave.
The announcement on Monday means plans to return the extinct beasts to the wild could become a reality within the next decade.
Scientists will create the elephant-mammoth hybrid by breeding embryos in a lab which carry mammoth DNA.
Skin cells from existing Asian elephants on the edge of extinction will be ‘reprogrammed’ into stem cells which can harbour mammoth DNA.
Then, scientists will be able to identify the right genes responsible for mammoth hair and fat layers by comparing material found in animals dug up from permafrost.
Those embryos could then be carried by surrogate mothers or even artificial wombs.
Church told The Guardian his ambition was to create mammoths able to survive in the Arctic, despite being formed from Asian elephants used to hotter climes.
He said: “Our goal is to make a cold-resistant elephant, but it is going to look and behave like a mammoth.
“Not because we are trying to trick anybody, but because we want something that is functionally equivalent to the mammoth, that will enjoy its time at -40C, and do all the things that elephants and mammoths do, in particular knocking down trees.
Lamm added: “Our goal isn’t just to bring back the mammoth, but to bring back interbreedable herds that are successfully rewilded back into the Arctic region.”
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It’s not clear whether the mammoths will be able to breed with existing elephant species.
Church said: “We might have to give them a little shave.”