Scientists hope to successfully create woolly mammoth hybrid by 2027

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Friday, September 17, 2021
Scientists hope to create woolly mammoth hybrid by 2027
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Using technology created by a Bay Area scientist, CRISPR start-up Colossal wants to bring back the woolly mammoth.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Using technology created by a Bay Area scientist, CRISPR start-up Colossal wants to bring back the woolly mammoth.

The project already has $15 million in funding and the technology may actually be there to make it happen.

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Long before the Shark Tank or Tower Hall were in San Jose, another giant stood tall.

In 2005, Roger Castillo was walking his dog along the Guadalupe River when he made a mammoth discovery.

It turned out to be the remains 10,000-year-old Columbian Mammoth.

This discovery showed the largest of the mammoth species once roamed Silicon Valley.

The Children's Discovery Museum took the fossil remains and recreated what the mammoth, aptly named Lupe, would look like.

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Models in museums are about as close as humans can get to the giant beasts nowadays. But that may change soon.

"This feels very, very big to us, so I cannot imagine what that would be like," Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose Executive Director Marilee Jennings said.

It sounds like a scene from Jurassic Park, but it's true.

Using CRISPR genome editing technology created by UC Berkeley Professor Jennifer Doudna, a team of scientists aims to genetically resurrect a woolly mammoth by 2027.

"Scientifically, they're not bringing back the woolly mammoth, it's actually like creating a genetically modified elephant," UC Berkeley Department of Integrative Biology Assistant Professor Dr. Jack Tseng said. "In that sense, science actually has a lot of experience genetically modifying all sorts of different things."

Think genetically modified crops, but make it mammoth.

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We asked Dr. Tseng to look into a crystal ball and see if this could actually be possible.

"I think it's definitely within the technology and the science that we can see that it's possible today to make something like that happen," Dr. Tseng said.

The scientists' plan is to repopulate the Arctic with mammoths to help counteract the effects of climate change.

Right now, the artic plant life is out of balance resulting in more carbon emissions.

The mammoths used to maintain the balance and the hope is they can do it again.

But to quote Jurassic Park, just because we could, doesn't always mean we should.

Dr. Tseng thinks there needs to be more testing before this moves forward.

"In my mind, I agree with the fact that we could probably do more good by applying some of those technologies to save and conserve our currently endangered or almost extinct species," Dr. Tseng said. It's one thing to construct something in a lab, it's another thing to make it happen and release it back into nature. We're not quite there scientifically as far as just understanding the impact on the environment."

Dr. Tseng also mentioned that scientists have the DNA of many more prehistoric animals, so the mammoth may just be the start if this all works out.