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Woolly mammoth fragments spur on new hopes for cloning

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 12th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The discovery of tissues belonging to the long-extinct woolly mammoth has been uncovered in Russia. The discovery excites scientists, as this gives them new opportunities to clone an extinct species. Found in deep Siberia, the find may contain living cells, bringing the notion of a "Jurassic Park" closer to reality.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Russia's North-Eastern Federal University reported that an international team of researchers had discovered mammoth hair, soft tissues and bone marrow some 328 feet underground during a summer expedition in the northeastern province of Yakutia.

Korean scientists with the team had set a goal of finding living cells in the hope of cloning a mammoth, expedition Chief Semyon Grigoryev said. Scientists have previously found bones and fragments -- but not living cells.

Grigoryev told reporters it would take months of research to determine whether they have indeed found the cells.

"Only after thorough laboratory research will it be known whether these are living cells or not," Grigoryev said. It will take until the end of the year at the earliest.

Wooly mammoths are believed to have become extinct around 10,000 years ago, although scientists think small groups of them lived longer in Alaska and on Russia's Wrangel Island off the Siberian coast.

Scientists already have deciphered much of the genetic code of the woolly mammoth from balls of mammoth hair found frozen in the Siberian permafrost and some believe it's possible to recreate the prehistoric animal if the discovered tissues bear fruit.

"We are counting on our region's permafrost to have kept some cells alive. But it is unlikely," said Grigoryev, pointing out that the remains would need to have been at a stable temperature between -4 and -20 Celsius (between 28 and -4 Fahrenheit) for any cells to remain alive.

Those who succeed in recreating an extinct animal could claim a "Jurassic Park prize," the concept of which is being developed by the X Prize Foundation that awarded a 2004 prize for the first private spacecraft.

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