Since some are found in trapped tundra ice with the meat still fresh.
There’s some speculative work, but we are not even remotely close. Just off the top of my head, some fundamental problems with trying to create a mammoth:
[li]We have yet to recover enough mammoth nuclear DNA to sequence it; we only have the mammoth mitochondrial sequence.[/li][li]Current somatic nuclear transfer techniques involve transferring an entire nucleus, not just a genome; even if we had the entire mammoth nuclear sequence, and could synthesize all the pieces properly, we wouldn’t have the epigenetic data (DNA and chromatin modifications).[/li][li]We could, potentially, synthesize the DNA component of the mammoth chromosomes and replace normal elephant DNA with them, thereby creating a hybrid nucleus with mammoth DNA and elephant epigenetics. However, this has never been done before, ever. In fact, the world’s first whole-chromosome transplantation was only published several weeks ago by Craig Venter’s lab, and that was in a bacterium. Bacteria are much, much simpler where genetic regulation is concerned than eukaryotes like elephants and mammoths.[/li][/ul] And those are just some of the big theoretical gaps. In each one, there are countless practical problems. So…no.
However, if the protein in the recovered tissue is still mostly intact, we might be seeing some nice proteomics studies coming out of that sample in a year’s time or so.
They found a frozen mammoth in Siberia last week, IIRC. Scientists were hopeful that they would be able to recover enough DNA to clone one.
Would sperm be more resistant to the damage done from freezing? If so the backcross method, using elephant/mammoth hybrids (impregnating female elephants with mammoth sperm) might work, according to some info I read. The frozen individual in post #3 however was a baby really so you’d need a mature male specimen.
Okay another question: what kind of technology (supercomputers, artificial genome sequencers, etc.) would you need to rebuild the genome from the ground up? Yeah several centuries at least in the future but I’ve always been curious as to what exactly that would require.
…rebuild the genome from the ground up? As in come up with Mammoth DNA without having Mammoth DNA from … ? If there’s no mammoth DNA left then that information is gone. It is not recoverable and short of a time machine no amount of technology is going to let you a) make mammoth DNA b) confirm that any particular DNA is mammoth DNA unless it came out of a mammoth.
Now what I want to know is what kind of technology do we need until we can make tiny hairy giggling elephants the size of guinea pigs
It was a baby female, and what they were really hoping for was that some frozen eggs might be found. But neither is likely.
As for the OP, there are efforts on several fronts:
- Find intact DNA and clone a mammoth.
- Develop the technology to reconstruct the DNA (fossilized DNA us usually fragmented).
- Find frozen sperm and/or eggs and use IVF to create a real mammoth, or settle for an elephant/mammoth hybrid.
We’re not as far away from step #2 as one might think. We’re getting better and better at reconstructing fossilized DNA and we’re also learning how to build chromosomes “from scratch”. Poke around on Craig Venter’s web site to get an idea of where this technology is headed.
… same question as above… from scratch? Does that mean from DNA fragments?
Not quite. If we’re talking about eukaryotic chromosomes, DNA isn’t the only component. The eukaryotic chromosome is a tightly-packed structure of DNA wrapped around roughly-spherical nucleosomes, with the addition of a few other scaffold proteins. It’s a pretty complex three-dimensional structure, and needs to have various specialized sub-structures for it to work or be replicated properly in a living cell(centromeres, etc). Craig Venter’s lab recently managed a transplant of a bacterial chromosome from one bacterium to another. This feat, though stunning, pales in comparison to what would be necessary to build a eukaryotic chromosome from scratch.
When I say “from scratch”, I mean from a sequence and nucleosome map in a data file. Synthesize the DNA, synthesize the nucleosomes, attach the appropriate epigenetic marks, assemble the DNA and nucleosomes (in the proper locations) into the 10nm fiber, fold the 10nm fiber into 30nm fibers, associate the 30nm fibers with the scaffold, attach the appropriate anchor proteins to the scaffold, and allow for a nuclear envelope to form around it and anchor the chromatin to the envelope.
EDIT: I don’t count on any cells in a recovered mammoth body to have their DNA all in one piece. They might, however, have enough pieces to cover the whole genome and be sequenced as such, and we could possibly use the elephant nucleosome map (…disregarding the fact that no such map exists to date…). That’s why I’m talking about synthesizing from the sequence information, and not from actual recovered molecules.
Ok, so this makes a lot more sense. John DiFool used the term “rebuild the genome from scratch” and I kept trying to figure out where the information comes from. What you’re talking about is simply understanding and applying the information . That I understand.
What I meant was, suppose we are able to map out the mammoth genome without having any fully formed chromosomes. We should, in the not too distant future, be able to create a man-made chromosome based on that “recipe”.
Didn’t mean “from a void of information”, but yeah some of what the last two posts talk about.
There was a very interesting program on this very subject just recently, an episode of Nature, I think. It was about little beasties trapped in amber millions of years ago, and how DNA has been recovered from them. But the program also says there’s virtually no chance that the DNA will be in shape to be cloned.
The program was hosted by naturalist David Attenborough, brother of actor/director Richard, who played the bankrolling billionaire who created Jurassic Park.
Controlled fission, moon landing, bringing a species out of extinction…damn will that be cool when it happens.
One thing to keep in mind about cloning or resurrecting mammoths that sets them apart from, say, a T-Rex is that we have an extant genome that must be very, very close to the mammoth genome-- ie, the elephant genome. So we’re starting out knowing probably 99% of what that genome is without ever looking at any mammoth DNA at all. The key will be to find out what the differences are. If we wanted to reconstruct a T-Rex genome, we’d probably start with some sort of bird, but the split between the avian line and the (now extinct) T-Rex line lies on the order of 100x further back in time than the split between the mammoth and the elephant line.
It’s not quite that far back. The mammoth-elephant split occurred roughly 30 million years ago. That alone makes your “100x” factor off by at least a factor of ten. More specifically, though, the earliest known tyrannosauroid (which split off the main Coelurosauria line) dates back to between 146 mya and 125 mya (which you may notice is actually younger than Archaeopteryx, which dates to around 155-150 mya). Since all extant Aves and Tyrannosaurus are all coelurosaurs, that puts the earliest Tyrannosaurus - Aves split at around that time: 146 mya at the oldest.
So what all this translates to is that tyrannosaur - bird split occurred only about 5x farther back than the mammoth-elephant split. Granted, it doesn’t make the process any more practical, just that you’ve pretty dramatically overstated the time differences involved.
Really? Not according to wikipedia:
I believe you are thinking of Mastodons, which split off from the elephant/mammoth line about 25M years ago. I realized that 100x was not correct, but that 10x was too small, which is why I said “on the order of”. Perhaps a better way of stating it is somewhere between 10 and 100x.
I was just coming back to correct that; yeah, I had confused mastodons with mammoths.
If we assume a 6 mya split for mammoths - elephants, then we’re talking about 25x that time span for the tyrannosaur - bird split. Again, though, it doesn’t affect the basic premise that cloning a T. rex would be substantially more difficult than cloning a mammoth, at least partially because we don’t have a recent and closely related analog with which to work.