Monday, January 30, 2012

Mammoth Task

Is it possible to clone a mammoth?
A mammoth thighbone found last August in Siberia contains very well-preserved marrow, increasing the chances of successful cloning.
A Russian/Japanese scientific team will begin full-fledged joint research this year to clone the giant mammal, the remnants of which became extinct at least 3,600 years ago.
Biology 101: by transplanting nuclei from the marrow cells into elephant egg cells whose nuclei have been removed through a cloning technique, embryos with a mammoth gene could be produced and planted into elephant wombs, as the two species are close relatives.
For the first time, there's a high likelihood that biologically active nuclei can be extracted as the frozen marrow found in August was in excellent condition. Scientists will now try to obtain elephant eggs for the research project.
For me, the big question must be: if mammoths ARE successfully cloned, what will be done with them?
Will there be plans for entire herds?
Will they become scientific "test rats"?
Will they be bred as a cold-weather meat source, or even as a source of ivory? Russia is already exporting 60 tonnes of mammoth ivory to China, the world's biggest ivory market, each year to meet a growing demand for ethical ivory (taking advantage of a global ban on the trade in elephant ivory). Scientists believe there could be as many as 150 million mammoths frozen beneath the Siberian tundra!
Unlike the recent instance of scientists mutating bird flu to make it airborne (thus potentially risking all mankind!!!), I don't actually have a problem with mammoths being cloned as such.
But I'd like to know the reasons WHY.

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