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Efforts To Turn Elephants Into Woolly Mammoths Are Already Underway 147

Jason Koebler writes: "Researchers are working to hybridize existing animals with extinct ones in order to create a '2.0' version of the animal. Using a genome editing technique known as CRISPR, Harvard synthetic biologist George Church has successfully migrated three genes, which gave the woolly mammoth its furry appearance, extra layer of fat, and cold-resistant blood, into the cells of Asian elephants, with the idea of eventually making a hybrid embryo. In theory, given what we know about both the woolly mammoth genome and the Asian elephant genome, the final product will be something that more closely resembles the former than the latter."
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Efforts To Turn Elephants Into Woolly Mammoths Are Already Underway

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  • by wiggles ( 30088 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @06:34PM (#47061217)

    Probably similar to bison [jhbuffalomeat.com] - the only real ice age megafauna left.

  • by maliqua ( 1316471 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @07:02PM (#47061473)

    Watching Monty python too many times is an asymptote i can only get infinitely close to watching it too many times

  • Re:so... (Score:4, Informative)

    by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @07:18PM (#47061587)

    The whole plan seems pretty sketchy. You can't just create a mashup of two distantly related animals and automatically expect to get something viable out of the mix. Mammoths and Asian elephants aren't actually that closely related- African elephant, Asian elephant, and mammoth are thought to have diverged around six million years ago, so mammoths are about as close to Asian elephants as chimps are to humans.

    Hybridization can result in improved fitness if the parents aren't too distantly related. However, the more distant the relationship between the parents, the less likely the offspring are to be viable. Humans and Neanderthals split around 600,000 years ago and were able to successfully interbreed. However, horses and asses split around four million years ago. The offspring- mules and hinnies- are healthy, but they are either sterile or have reduced fertility. Breeding more distantly related animals produces non-viable offspring.

    The article does mention that there have been hybrids between Asian and African elephants, which are slightly more distantly related than Asian elephant and mammoth. What the article neglects to mention is that the only known example of an African-Asian hybrid died several weeks after birth; there are other reports of hybrids being born but strikingly no reports of any surviving. This suggests that mixing mammoth and Asian elephant DNA is going to produce an unhealthy or non-viable offspring.

  • by aNonnyMouseCowered ( 2693969 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @08:41PM (#47062149)

    What you're talking about is basically natural crossbreeding, not the type of genetic engineering that involves modifying the DNA itself of an organism. By "natural" I include such mechanical techniques as artificial insemination, extracting the sperm and eggs from mature adults and mixing them up. With natural crossbreeding you get the whole shebang, you let nature decide which genes become active and dominant. In theory, with DNA level genetic engineering you can specify which traits you want to get. I'm not saying this is a good thing, only that you can potentially get more control by "editing" (the word used in the article) the genes that simpy mixing the semen and egg of two different species.

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