(Washington) That the woolly mammoth, a species extinct 4,000 years ago, has once again set foot on Arctic soils is the challenge that US company Colossal, which it launched on Monday, is trying to meet with the help of genetic manipulation techniques.
“Colossal will launch a practical and efficient de-extinction model and will be the first company to apply advanced genetic modification techniques to reintegrate woolly mammoths into the arctic tundra,” the company said in a statement.
The concept of de-extinction, the concept of creating an animal similar to an extinct species using genetics, is not unanimous in the scientific community, with some researchers skeptical of its usefulness or concerned about the risks of its application.
Colossal, created by businessman Ben Lam and geneticist George Church, intends to insert DNA sequences from woolly mammoths, collected from remains preserved in Siberian soil, into the genome of Asian elephants, in order to create a hybrid species.
Colossal states on its website that Asian elephants and woolly mammoths have a similar DNA ratio of 99.6%.
The company asserted that creating these hybrid snakes and then reintroducing them into the tundra would make it possible to “restore vanished ecosystems that could help halt or even reverse the effects of climate change”.
And according to Colossal, genetically modified woolly mammoths could “give new life to Arctic meadows,” making it possible to capture carbon dioxide and remove methane, two greenhouse gases.
The biotech company has managed to raise $15 million in private funds to achieve this goal, which has been cast doubt by some experts.
“There are a lot of issues that will come up in the process,” biologist Beth Shapiro says in The New York Times.
“It is not ending extinction. There will never be mammoths on Earth again. If it works, it will be a fictional elephant, a completely new and genetically modified organism,” said Tori Herridge, a biologist and paleontologist at the London Museum of Natural History.
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