Dr. Malcolm warned us, but we didn’t listen…
The New York Times reports that a scientific team at Pennsylvania State University, headed by Stephan C. Schuster and Webb Miller, believes DNA sequencing machines have made it possible to fully sequence—and even recreate, in flesh and blood—the wooly mammoth, “for as little as $10 million.”
It turns out that hair from a mammoth is a much better source of DNA than bones because the DNA contained within is purer (instead of mashed up into tiny pieces), and the keratin around the hair is able to seal out any troublesome bacteria.
So what would they do with that DNA, once it’s all sequenced? And why would it cost $10 million? Unfortunately, you can’t just create the cells from scratch. But you can find the genetically closest modern relative—in this case, an African elephant—and
modify the genome of an elephant’s cell at the 400,000 or more sites necessary to make it resemble a mammoth’s genome. The cell could be converted into an embryo and brought to term by an elephant….
Hrm. This is starting to sound familiar…
Dr. Schuster says that museums would be an absolute “goldmine” of animal DNA that has been preserved in hooves and feathers.
But why stop there? Sequencing of the complete Neanderthal genome is nearly complete. If a mammoth could be successfully resurrected, it’s possible that the same could be done to recreate a Neanderthal. The scientists are confident that with the advances today there are no technical obstacles…
But before you get worried about poking around the human genome, Dr. George Church of Harvard’s Medical School says that
The workaround would be to modify not a human genome but that of the chimpanzee, which is some 98 percent similar to that of people. The chimp’s genome would be progressively modified until close enough to that of Neanderthals, and the embryo brought to term in a chimpanzee.
Ah, thank goodness. Much less creepy, don’t you think?