Bringing back extinct creatures of the past might not be a fantasy only available on the widescreen. In Yakutia, Russia, scientists have found what they believe to be frozen living cells from ancient mammoths. The most intriguing part? These cells, if indeed viable, could provide a platform for cloning the prehistoric mammoth. Semyon Grigoryev from North-Eastern Federal University in Russia worked with other researchers from around the world to study a number of frozen cells discovered more than 300 feet below ground. The cells are from hair, soft tissue, and bone marrow from a woolly mammoth that lived approximately 10,000 years ago, near the time that most of the mammoths disappeared from the Earth. If the cells are viable, scientists could use the knowledge that they already have about the genes of the woolly mammoth to clone one. The woolly mammoth genome was sequenced in 2008 by a team of researchers at Penn State, who revealed the 4 billion nucleotide bases that made up the mammoth’s DNA. However, according to Stephan Schuster, co-author of that study, the sequence might not include the full woolly mammoth genome, and could be tainted by DNA from other organisms and plants that lived close to the mammoth or contaminated the mammoth hair cells that were studied. The scientists working on the study are still unsure if the cells are living, but further research will determine whether they can open the possibility of cloning a creature that we thought could never walk the Earth again.

Discover more about living woolly mammoth cells at USAToday.com.

Published On: October 2, 2012

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