CRISPR startup wants to bring back the Woolly Mammoth by 2027!

A CRISPR startup called Colossal is aiming to resurrect the woolly mammoth but the year 2027. Bring back a woolly mammoth to life from extinction sounds like a science fiction. However, the startup Colossal has decided to turn it into reality.

According to the reports, the geneticists by Harvard Medical School’s George Church has aimed to resurrect the woolly mammoth, which have not wandered Earth in around 4000 years. The company plans to restore the extinct animal to its natural habitat.

Moreover, the company has already received a fund of $15 million for the project, which has certainly given this project a major boost. The generous amount is invested in the project by the bioscience and genetics company Colossal and George Church. The two organizations successfully raised the finds for the said project. Co-founded by Ben Lamm, Colossal is a tech and software entrepreneur/startup.

This project also has George Church on board, who is a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, and a pioneer in new approaches to gene editing.

In order to bring the extinct ice age mammoth to life, the scientist has planned the initial stage, which is to create a mammoth-elephant hybrid embryo in the lab, which will carry the DNA of a mammoth. This step requires skin cells from the endangered Asian elephants. The scientist will re-programme the cells into a “more versatile stem-cell” carrying the mammoth DNA.

Subsequently, these embryos will be planted inside an artificial womb. Carried by a surrogate mother, the researchers hope to have a successful baby mammoth or a set of calf within six year.

George Church told, “Our goal is to make a cold-resistant elephant, but it is going to look and behave like a mammoth. Not because we are trying to trick anybody, but because we want something that is functionally equivalent to the mammoth, that will enjoy its time at -40C, and do all the things that elephants and mammoths do, in particular knocking down trees,”

According to the researchers, bringing back the woolly mammoth can help in restoring the ecosystem of the fragile Arctic tundra. Moreover, it can also help in combating the climate crisis and preservation of Asian Elephants, which also fall in the endangered species category.

However, this is not going to be an easy task. According to the reports, the frozen DNA extracted by the scientists from the woolly mammoth are too “fragmented and degraded.” It certainly is going to be a challenge for the scientists.

Church told that the company is planning to achieve its first set of calves in the next six years. Besides, the new investment has opened the doors of hope for the startup. Talking about the fund that the company has received for the resurrection of the mammoth, Church said, “Up until 2021, it has been kind of a backburner project, frankly… but now we can actually do it,”

“This is going to change everything,” said Church.

The startup has dedicated around 19 employees working at the Dallas headquarters. The work is also being carried on in the offices in Boston and Austin, Texas. Other than that, the company is also planning to use the funds to hire more people for the project.

As explained by Church, the scientists will be required to simultaneously program 50 changes to the original DNA or the genetic code taken from the Asian elephant. Then only the mammoth will get the traits to not only survive, but also thrive in the arctic region.

Some of the required traits for a mammoth to live in the conditions of arctic include “a 10-centimeter layer of insulating fat, five different kinds of shaggy hair including some that is up to a meter long, and smaller ears that will help the hybrid tolerate the cold,” reported CNN.

Moreover, Church is optimist about this project. He believes that the editing of the DNA will be done successfully. He said, “The editing, I think, is going to go smoothly. We’ve got a lot of experience with that, I think, making the artificial wombs is not guaranteed. It’s one of the few things that is not pure engineering, there’s maybe a tiny bit of science in there as well, which always increases uncertainty and delivery time.”

While some believe in the project, there is already a debate around the ethics of project. Some scientists believe that the restoration of mammoth will be proven very important, while some have raised ethical questions around the use of endangered Asian elephants for the purpose. According to the people opposing the act, it is unethical to put the living elephants in use for giving birth to a genetically engineered animal.

Meanwhile, one of the investors, Zach Lynch of Jazz Venture Partners is happy and enthusiastic about restoration of the mammoths. Lynch has great expectations from the CRISPR bases startup Colossal. According to Lynch, such scientific breakthroughs will help in the actively addressing the environmental issues, “such as land degradation, animal pollinator loss and other negative biodiversity trends.”

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