(NEWS10) – Although woolly mammoths became extinct thousands of years ago, researchers are reportedly using genetic engineering to bring the species back in efforts to fight climate change.
According to HISTORY, Professor George Church of Harvard University says his research team believes it can create a mammoth-elephant hybrid, with woolly mammoth features, in embryo form within two years.
Over the past two years, Church and his scientists have apparently been using a gene-editing technique to isolate mammoth genes and splice them into DNA of the closest living relative of the woolly mammoth, an Asian elephant.
Until recently, HISTORY says the research team has not gone further than the cell stage. They are now moving on to create embryos with the blend of mammoth traits and Asian elephant DNA. The hybrid, also referred as “mammohant,” is said to feature distinctive mammoth traits including small ears, shaggy hair, and blood that allows the animal to survive in freezing temperatures.
The team plans on growing this embryo within an artificial womb in a lab, according to HISTORY. They say they hope the changes will not only help preserve the Asian elephant, which is an endangered species, but fight global warming by slowing the thawing of Arctic permafrost.
When woolly mammoths existed, they helped nurture grasslands and suppress forest growth. By bringing the animal back, scientists believe this is how they’d slow the thawing of permafrost.
Despite this progress, HISTORY reports the research team says it will take many years before they can produce a living creature.
In other views, other scientists apparently have ethical concerns. Some tell HISTORY blending the two animals together raises questions for how the hybrid will be greeted and treated among other animals, saying that the mammoth and Asian elephant were not just “a set of genes, but social animals.”
Questions and concerns as such are expected to be answered at an upcoming American Association for the Advancement of Science conference.