PDA

View Full Version : Scientists Map Woolly Mammoth DNA - a step closer to possible "Jurassic Park"


BeachBoy
November 19th, 2008, 10:55 PM
[ source (http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2008/11/jurassic_park_scientists_map_d.html) ]

tl;dr warning. :D
WASHINGTON -- Bringing "Jurassic Park" one step closer to reality, scientists have deciphered much of the genetic code of the woolly mammoth, a feat they say could allow them to recreate the shaggy, prehistoric beast in as little as a decade or two. The project marks the first time researchers have spelled out the DNA of an extinct species, and it raised the possibility that other ancient animals such as mastodons and sabertooth tigers might someday walk the Earth again.

"It could be done. The question is, just because we might be able to do it one day, should we do it?" asked Stephan Schuster, a Penn State University biochemist and co-author of the new research. "I would be surprised to see if it would take more than 10 or 20 years to do it." The million-dollar mammoth study resulted in a first draft of the animal's genome, detailing the ice age creature's more than 3 billion DNA building blocks. The research published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature also gives scientists new clues about evolution and extinction.

"This is an amazing achievement," said Alex Greenwood, an Old Dominion University biology professor who studies ancient DNA and was not involved in the mammoth research. Full-sized mammoths, about 8 to 14 feet tall like elephants, became extinct around 10,000 years ago.

To obtain the DNA, scientists relied on 20 balls of mammoth hair found frozen in the Siberian permafrost. That technique -- along with major improvements in genome sequencing and the still-emerging field of synthetic biology -- is helping biologists envision a science-fiction future.

Past efforts to analyze ancient DNA often used material extracted from fossilized bones, which frequently became contaminated with bacteria, viruses and parasites over thousands of years. For example, efforts to study Neanderthal DNA have been hampered because only about 6 percent of the recovered genetic material actually belonged to our ancient cousins. The new study, which is about 80 percent complete, provides a letter-by-letter genetic code mapping out most of the mammoth's DNA. Think of it as an instruction sheet on how to build a mammoth. Scientists don't yet know how to do that, but experts say eventually they will.

Schuster said researchers should someday be able to recreate any extinct creature that lived within the last 100,000 years as long as it got trapped in permafrost and had hair. That leaves out the Jurassic period, the time of dinosaurs, from about 140 million to 200 million years ago. So Earth's real-life sequel to extinction is far more likely to be "Ice Age 3" than "Jurassic Park IV." Three years ago, Japanese scientists said they hoped to find frozen mammoth sperm and impregnate an elephant and raise the offspring in a safari park in Siberia. But using genetics to engineer a mammoth makes more sense, Schuster said.

Anthropology professor Hendrik Poinar of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said he no longer considers such ideas impossible. Poinar, who wasn't part of Schuster's study but consulted on the movie "Jurassic Park," said director Steven Spielberg may have had it right when he told skeptical scientists: "This is the science of eventuality."
There are two possible ways to use this new genetic map to make a mammoth, and both involve creating a mammoth embryo and implanting it into its elephant cousin. Both methods are incredibly complex and rely on intricate genetic manipulation because the mammoth DNA is not suitable for cloning.

One approach requires scientists to start with an elephant cell and genetically engineer it to match the DNA code of a mammoth. The other method involves synthetic biology in which scientists would create life forms from scratch. Once this technique is developed -- and leaders in the field say it is just three to 10 years away -- scientists would follow the mammoth recipe to build a mammoth cell.

An easier option would be to examine what makes the mammoth different from its closest cousin, the African elephant, and create a hairy hybrid to sit in zoos. "People would like to see a hairy elephant," said George Church, director of computational genomics at Harvard Medical School. The more practical side of the research is to better illustrate the evolutionary differences between mammoths and elephants and even humans and chimps, said Church, who was not part of the study.

Elephants and mammoths diverged along evolutionary paths about 6 million years ago, about the same time humans and chimps did, Schuster said. But there are twice as many differences between the genetic makeup of chimps and humans as those between elephants and mammoths.

"Primates evolved twice as fast as elephants," Schuster said. But some animals such as rodents have had even more evolutionary changes, indicating that their development might have to do with size or metabolism, said study co-author Webb Miller. Another interesting finding: In the 50 or so species with mostly mapped genomes, there are certain areas where the genetic code is exactly the same in all the animals -- except the mammoth. In other animals, these proteins "stayed the same for a very long time," said Miller, professor of biology and computer science at Penn State. "I don't know what it means. All I did was find them."

Miller and Schuster noticed that most of the mammoths they examined had far less genetic diversity than other species still alive, and that may also give a clue to the biology of extinction. So the two are also applying what they learned from the Siberian behemoth to their other efforts to help save Australia's endangered Tasmanian devil, which has the same lack of genetic diversity.
___
On the Net
Nature: www.nature.com/nature (http://www.nature.com/nature)
The Mammoth Genome Project: http://rw.mammoth.psu.edu (http://rw.mammoth.psu.edu/)

It's pretty big for science to have the possibility of recreating extinct creatures from 100,000 years ago in a decade or two. A couple things that came to mind when I read this... The outside reaction, think about it, there will be many people that would say "It's not our place to recreate failed species, or create life of anything even." But the way I see it, it's giving a species a second chance at life on Earth. Oh and my other reaction: "Aww, no raptors or dinosaurs. ):"

Still an amazing read and a major scientific achievement.

If we are able to recreate these extinct creatures (Such as the Sabertooth Tiger, Woolly Mammoth, and friends) in the future, do you think we should? What do you think about this article & step forward overall?

Aurafire
November 19th, 2008, 11:15 PM
I've heard about this type of thing before, and I think it's absolutely fascinating. It's a great step forward for science as a whole...If it were actually possible to do correctly, I'm all for it! Seeing some of these extinct species in real life would be quite a feat ^_^

Phixum
November 19th, 2008, 11:56 PM
I think this is impossible to achieve. As a religious person, I believe only God can induce life into inanimate "things". As a scientist, I think it is empirically impossible to have such a huge jump since no one could ever create a single cell, let alone synthesizing a dinosaur.

Regardless of that, I find it absolutely fascinating, as Aurafire puts it. It is where science and art come together, in my opinion. I find it difficult to emphasize more, probably because I'm overwhelmed by the idea.

moments.
November 20th, 2008, 12:01 AM
I think that is absolutely astonishing but the fact remains that I don't think recreating it would be wise.
The mammoth will not have adapted to present day conditions and was adapted to living in icy and snowy conditions. Brining it to life, may be successful, but there is a good chance it may very well fail. I still think they should try recreating these prehistoric beings, but maybe starting with something smaller (literally and metaphorically) would be a wise move. Number 1 because it would probably be easier to recreate, and secondly, it would be easier to contain as a Wooly Mammoth on the loose can only equal havoc.

♣Gawain♣
November 20th, 2008, 12:20 AM
It's absolutely outstanding. I never thought that someday, a prehistoric organism can be recreated. It's like inserting a bovine egg to a bison, the mammoth egg will be placed in an elephant's womb. Then you know what will happen next...

Soren.K
November 20th, 2008, 01:33 AM
First things that comes to my mind: Can we tame a Wooly Mammoth? Because I want one!

But seriously, I think it may be possible. I mean, it would take some smart people and alot of them would probably argue about what is and isn't the right action to take....but imagine if we were all in a cafe' about 60 or 70 years ago and talked about the possibilities of someone creating the internet, or better yet forums like these! Some people would say it's possible and others would say not a chance. Only time will tell I suppose.

ErickaVolt
November 20th, 2008, 05:43 AM
I heard this on the news! If this would be successful, it will be a big hit to Biology. Also if this happens, it will lead to cloning. Which ignorant Catholics hates it.

Cassino
November 20th, 2008, 06:02 AM
They'd make productive livestock animals, assuming they don't take too long to grow. Beyond this however their use runs out, and if re-introduced would just die out a second time given this global warming.

Also if this happens, it will lead to cloning.
Cloning is already possible and has been for over ten years, go read some about Dolly the sheep.

ErickaVolt
November 20th, 2008, 06:18 AM
Cloning is already possible and has been for over ten years, go read some about Dolly the sheep.
Duh. I already knew that. What I meant is the operation is illegal.

Volkner's Apprentice
November 20th, 2008, 08:03 AM
This is crazy awesome! I wonder if my Anthro teacher knows..I bet she'd be excited. I would love to see a real life wooly mammoth, how exciting. Also, I love how when articles like this are typed, they often say "scientists are doing this, experts say they can do it." Experts?..Aren't..the scientists themselves the experts? XD It's like they're being experts on scientists.

Netto Azure
November 20th, 2008, 11:12 AM
Hmm...This I've heard a couple of days ago....I think it would be a great leap forward (XD) if recreating extinct species is possible through DNA samples. As we all know our great disregard for the environment since the start of the Industrial Revolution has led to the extinction of many fascinating species of plants and animals. ^_^

Volkner's Apprentice
November 20th, 2008, 11:53 AM
Hmm...This I've heard a couple of days ago....I think it would be a great leap forward (XD) if recreating extinct species is possible through DNA samples. As we all know our great disregard for the environment since the start of the Industrial Revolution has led to the extinction of many fascinating species of plants and animals. ^_^

Mhm, we studied that in Anthropology. Over something like 80% of the species that existed on Earth are extinct. I don't know about sabertooth tigers though, do we want those jumping in front of our cars on mountain roads? :P

Emii
November 20th, 2008, 08:23 PM
Oh wow.. this would really be interesting. =) Some people I know argue with everything that it's just not right, and that's how monsters are made. But me, being a scientific person, I think it would be rather interesting. ^^

Harley Quinn
November 20th, 2008, 09:11 PM
I heard about this a couple of years ago in a childrens magazine. O.o
Or maybe it was just a warning.

But anyway, I'd like the idea of woolly mammoths and extinct flying squirrels roaming Antartica. Why Antartica? because, wooly mammoths would be screwed if they tried to live in Australia, considering the heatstroke and all. So yeah, keep them in an enviroment that supports them.

IF THEY EXIST.

BeachBoy
November 20th, 2008, 09:32 PM
I heard about this a couple of years ago in a childrens magazine. O.o
Or maybe it was just a warning.

But anyway, I'd like the idea of woolly mammoths and extinct flying squirrels roaming Antartica. Why Antartica? because, wooly mammoths would be screwed if they tried to live in Australia, considering the heatstroke and all. So yeah, keep them in an enviroment that supports them.

IF THEY EXIST.The entire project started some time ago, although this news happened the other day. (Nov. 19th)

But I don't think environment would be a problem, regardless of global warming. An example being Sea World, here in Florida, they keep their pure cold animals in perfectly maintained and chilly environments. However, establishing the new animal and getting things off on the correct foot would probably be challenging. I'm not going to rule this out at all, I know they don't have definite science to recreate, but we could easily have it in the future. The advancements & technology are so fast. Anything's possible.

Gummy
November 20th, 2008, 10:08 PM
As much as I love it when scientist make monumental discoveries, I have to say that I disagree with the recreating of any extinct species, especially if that species died out by natural causes and not modern human interference (in other words, I don't mind storing away some polar bear DNA because it's our fault they're dying). I'm simply tired of humans trying to play God. Anything even resembling life that is created artificially shouldn't even be called life, but rather artificial intelligence. Seriously, man's absolute need to control everything will be our downfall.

Harley Quinn
November 20th, 2008, 10:34 PM
The entire project started some time ago, although this news happened the other day. (Nov. 19th)
EXPLAIN PLZ
But I don't think environment would be a problem, regardless of global warming. An example being Sea World, here in Florida, they keep their pure cold animals in perfectly maintained and chilly environments. However, establishing the new animal and getting things off on the correct foot would probably be challenging. I'm not going to rule this out at all, I know they don't have definite science to recreate, but we could easily have it in the future. The advancements & technology are so fast. Anything's possible.
So basicaly, in the time of the Jetsons, you say that there could be mammoths in the wild, sabertooth tiger guard dogs and so forth?

BeachBoy
November 20th, 2008, 10:52 PM
EXPLAIN PLZ.

So basicaly, in the time of the Jetsons, you say that there could be mammoths in the wild, sabertooth tiger guard dogs and so forth? To clarify, the new about this (overall breaking down the code 'n' so forth) came out in the news two days ago. Yet people have known about the overall project for some time now.

And uh, no, I don't think that'll happen. o_o; I mean, in captivity sure, but let free out in the world to roam would take a good amount of time, at least that's what I think. Ehhhhh.