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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 tulcod ( 1056476 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @06:35PM (#47061237)

    When Intel buys or invents some kind of a new chip process, everyone applauds. When engineers use 3D printing to save a crippled boy's life, everyone celebrates technology. Stick an arduino in a tumor and people scream in ecstasy.

    But when the item of cloning comes in the news, suddenly people back away and ask what it's all good for. Because us humans are not allowed to mess with that.

    Come on people. We invested thousands of years trying to understand the tricks of physics and evolution. We have now got to a stage where we can apply these tricks ourselves and see what we can make of the world.

    Will it turn out for the better? Absolutely nobody knows. But telling scientists not to mess with this takes us back to the middle ages, where scientific incentives were influenced heavily by religious and cultural beliefs.

    Let us show ourselves that we no longer need that. This is the time to end that society of religion and culture. Messing with life, and bringing back the extinct, those are exactly the kind of things that go against all rules of religion that we have adhered to for the past x thousands years. Humans are the new god on planet earth (and beyond?).

  • Re:Bad timing? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @06:38PM (#47061275)

    Maybe we shouldn't be making woolly mammoths just now, with climate change and all that apocalyptic-ness right around the corner.

    There will be plenty of prime mammoth habitat. Although tundra is turning into taiga, plenty of formerly glaciated areas are turning into tundra. For instance, the mammoths could live in Greenland, which was completely covered with ice the last time mammoths were around, but already has some areas with commercial reindeer herds.

  • Re:so... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @06:43PM (#47061323)

    why are they doing this?

    Why not? Where elephants live, they are a keystone species []. They preserve the savanna by knocking down trees, and they dig waterholes that are used by many other animals. Once they are gone from a region, the entire ecosystem can drastically change. It is likely that mammoths had a similar effect in the arctic.

  • by binarstu ( 720435 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @12:07AM (#47062999)

    And you've missed my point. Perhaps I didn't explain myself well.

    I absolutely do not disagree that plenty of people have an irrational fear of genetic technologies. Nor do I disagree that we have lots of other ways to screw the world up (you mention the example of massive automated surveillance). And I wasn't arguing that we shouldn't try to resurrect a mammoth.

    The GP seemed to me to be making the argument that 1) negative reaction to "messing with life" is because of antiquated religious sensibilities; and 2) we're gods now, so we should just do whatever the heck we want. I don't find either part of that argument compelling. As for part 1, casting any and all opposition to unbridled genetic experimentation as nothing but religious or cultural fanatacism is a straw man argument, pure and simple. There are lots of very rational reasons to proceed cautiously with certain kinds of genetic experimentation (and plenty of scientists agree with me). Why part 2 is wrong shouldn't require any further explanation, and other commenters have already addressed it.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"