The American company Colossal will try to recreate, with the help of genetic manipulation techniques, the woolly mammoth, a species extinct for 4,000 years. Photo: NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP
WASHINGTON, USA – That the woolly mammoth, a species extinct for 4,000 years, set foot on the arctic ground again is the challenge facing the American company colossusl, released on Monday, will try to overcome it with the help of genetic manipulation techniques.
“Colossal will launch a practical and effective de-extinction model and will be the first company to apply advanced genetic modification techniques to reintegrate the woolly mammoth into the Arctic tundra,” the company said.
De-extinction, the concept of creating an animal similar to an extinct species, through genetics, is not unanimous among the scientific community. Some researchers doubt its viability or worry about the risks of its application.
Created by the entrepreneur Ben Lamm and the geneticist George Church, Colossal will try to insert DNA sequences from woolly mammoths (obtained from remains preserved in Siberian soil) into the genome of Asian elephants in order to create a hybrid species. The DNA of the Asian elephant and that of the woolly mammoth are 99.6% similar, says the company on its website.
The creation of these pachyderms hybrids and their reintroduction into the tundra should make it possible to “restore disappeared ecosystems, which could help to halt, or even reverse, the effects of climate change”, predicts Colossal.
The modified Woolly Mammoth could “give new life to the Arctic grasslands,” which, according to the company, capture carbon dioxide and eliminate methane, two greenhouse gases.
The biotech company was able to raise $15 million in private funds to achieve its goal, greeted with skepticism by some experts.
“Many problems will arise from this process,” biologist Beth Shapiro anticipated to New York Times. “This is not extinction. There will never be mammoths on Earth again. If it works, it will be a chimerical elephant, an entirely new, synthetic and genetically modified organism,” tweeted Tori Herridge, a biologist and paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London.