What if you found out that woolly mammoths could be walking the Earth again within just a few years? Despite becoming extinct 4,000 years ago, researchers believe that they have found a way to bring the beast back through genetic engineering.
A team out of Harvard University believes that within the next two years they will be able to create a hybrid embryo that will have traits of the mammoth combined with an Asian elephant. This would be one of the first new species resurrected by this “de-extinction” team that is working to bring back animals that have been lost to the world.
The new animal will not be completely like a mammoth, but will instead be an elephant that has mammoth traits. Professor George Church believes that the project will be complete within a couple years.
The team is considering naming the animal the “mammophant” since it won’t quite be a complete mammoth. It will have small ears, a large amount of fat, shaggy hair all over its body, and would have blood that will allow for it to thrive in cold climates. These genes are going to be spliced into elephant DNA through the usage of the gene editing tool called Crispr.
At this time the research team has gone no further than the cell stage. However, they are now turning their focus towards creating a live embryo. The project began back in 2015 and the number of edits to the elephant genes have gone from 15 up to 45.
This research would not only bring back a species that humans haven’t seen for thousands of years, but it may also save the Asian elephants as well. They are an endangered species that is on its way out the door, and this would allow for their breed to continue on in an adjusted form.
There are still ethical concerns about the project. Some feel uncomfortable with playing with nature in this way and taking on the role of “God” in a way. Beyond that, there are some worries that the elephant-mammoth hybrid might have social issues since it may not be warmly greeted by its Asian Elephant brethren.