Genetic Engineering has advanced at an alarming rate! The Mammoth that was "killed off" by ancient humans and partly due to climate change, about 4000 years ago, is now on the brink of resurrection, thanks to genetic engineering! The produced animal will be an elephant offspring with a lot of traits inherent to the wooly mammoth. This ambitious de-extinction program is being conducted by a team of Genetic Engineers at Harvard lead by Prof. George Church.
In this effort to recreate a mammoth, an Asian elephant with be programmed with the characteristics of a wooly mammoth. The aim is to create an embryo that is partly elephant and partly mammoth. This offspring will have most of the elephant traits while also having mammoth-like features. The offspring to be named "mammophant" would have features such as blood adapted to the cold, tiny ears, subcutaneous fat and of course, long and shaggy hair! This splicing of a mammoth's DNA into an elephant's will be done using an extremely powerful tool, namely Crispr.
This project which was started in 2015, is expected to take at least 2 more years before any attempt at creating a live offspring will be made.
While many regard this attempt as a giant leap in genetic engineering, others are questioning the ethical aspects of it. Matthew Cobb, a zoology professor at the University of Manchester asked, what the reaction of the other elephants be and how they would accept this mammophant into their herd.
Prof. Church who is heading the program said that the entire project will be carried out, ex-vivo, in layman terms, outside a living creature, using an artificial womb. He said that his lab is already capable of producing mice ex-vivo at nearly half of the gestation period, in 10 days, and that since the Asian Elephant is an endangered species, it would be unreasonable to risk a live animal for this experiment (The mammoth has ancestors in the Asian elephants and not the African elephants).
According to Church, this project seems to have 2 goals. The first one is to save the Asian elephants from becoming extinct and the next is, to fight global warming! Mammoths blow holes through the snow allowing cold air to pass over the tundra, preventing it from thawing and during the summer, they uproot trees, allowing the grass to grow.
Another interesting prediction that Prof. Chruch made, was about age reversal. He said that it could become a reality in just under 10 years, due to all the development that has taken place in genetic engineering!