Scientists take cell samples from an extinct 40,000-year-old frozen foal

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This is the moment scientists took cell samples from an extinct baby horse up to 40,000 years old in a bid to clone the species back to life. The Russian-South Korean team claim the experiment on the male foal is a


This is the moment scientists took cell samples from a 40,000-year-old extinct baby horse in a bid to clone the species back to life.

The Russian-South Korean team claim the experiment on the male foal is the ‘first step’ in restoring the long-gone woolly mammoth, their ultimate goal.

Laboratory pictures from Yakutsk – the world’s coldest city – show the search for ‘living cells’ on the light ginger-coloured carcass frozen in permafrost for between 30,000 and 40,000 years.

The foal was discovered in the frozen subsoil of a Siberian crater known as the ‘Mouth of Hell’ and was around 20 days old when it died. 

Close-up images highlight the extraordinary life-like preservation in the planet’s natural freezer.

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This is the moment scientists took cell samples from an extinct baby horse up to 40,000 years old in a bid to clone the species back to life. The Russian-South Korean team claim the experiment on the male foal is a 'first step' in restoring the long-gone woolly mammoth, their ultimate goal

This is the moment scientists took cell samples from an extinct baby horse up to 40,000 years old in a bid to clone the species back to life. The Russian-South Korean team claim the experiment on the male foal is a ‘first step’ in restoring the long-gone woolly mammoth, their ultimate goal

Tens of thousands of years of dirt was washed off the young foal, revealing a black mane and tail with a dark stripe along the spine. 

‘Fortunately, the animal’s muscle tissues were undamaged and well preserved, so we managed to get samples from this unique find for biotechnology research’, said Dr Semyon Grigoriev, leading researcher at Russia’s mammoth Museum.

Cloning specialist Professor Hwang Woo Suk flew in from Seoul to spearhead the search for living DNA material from the foal.

‘If we manage to find a cell, then we will do our best to clone the unique animal,’ he said.

A mare of a horse species similar to the extinct Lenskaya breed will be used as a surrogate, he told The Siberian Times.

Laboratory pictures from Yakutsk – the world's coldest city – show the search for 'living cells' on the light ginger-coloured carcass frozen in permafrost for between 30,000 and 40,000 years

Laboratory pictures from Yakutsk – the world's coldest city – show the search for 'living cells' on the light ginger-coloured carcass frozen in permafrost for between 30,000 and 40,000 years

Laboratory pictures from Yakutsk – the world’s coldest city – show the search for ‘living cells’ on the light ginger-coloured carcass frozen in permafrost for between 30,000 and 40,000 years

The foal was discovered in the frozen subsoil of a Siberian crater known as the 'Mouth of Hell' and was around 20 days old when it died

The foal was discovered in the frozen subsoil of a Siberian crater known as the 'Mouth of Hell' and was around 20 days old when it died

The foal was discovered in the frozen subsoil of a Siberian crater known as the ‘Mouth of Hell’ and was around 20 days old when it died

Close-up images highlight the extraordinary life-like preservation in the planet's natural freezer. Tens of thousands of years of dirt was washed off the young foal, revealing a black mane and tail with a dark stripe along the spine

Close-up images highlight the extraordinary life-like preservation in the planet's natural freezer. Tens of thousands of years of dirt was washed off the young foal, revealing a black mane and tail with a dark stripe along the spine

Close-up images highlight the extraordinary life-like preservation in the planet’s natural freezer. Tens of thousands of years of dirt was washed off the young foal, revealing a black mane and tail with a dark stripe along the spine

Cloning specialist Professor Hwang Woo Suk flew in from Seoul to spearhead the search for living DNA material from the foal

Cloning specialist Professor Hwang Woo Suk flew in from Seoul to spearhead the search for living DNA material from the foal

Cloning specialist Professor Hwang Woo Suk flew in from Seoul to spearhead the search for living DNA material from the foal

Scientists will use horses (pictured) that are similar to the extinct Lenskaya breed. It could be the first step in working out how to restore the long-gone woolly mammoth

Scientists will use horses (pictured) that are similar to the extinct Lenskaya breed. It could be the first step in working out how to restore the long-gone woolly mammoth

Scientists will use horses (pictured) that are similar to the extinct Lenskaya breed. It could be the first step in working out how to restore the long-gone woolly mammoth

Plans for a'world class' research centre in the city of Yakutsk are set to be unveiled later this month when Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts a major investment forum

Plans for a'world class' research centre in the city of Yakutsk are set to be unveiled later this month when Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts a major investment forum

Plans for a’world class’ research centre in the city of Yakutsk are set to be unveiled later this month when Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts a major investment forum

Similarly, when the scientists are ready to clone a mammoth an elephant will be used as a surrogate.

But the professor said there was far more similarity between the foal and a modern-day horse than between a mammoth and an elephant.

‘We have so many live horses. We can get a very good choice of eggs from these female horses’, he said. 

‘And after making the cloned embryo with this baby horse, we can easily transport it to the surrogate mother.

‘There are the types of horses that are very close to the ancient one.’

In contrast, he said there is a very big distance between the ancient mammoth and the elephant.

A mare of a horse species similar to the extinct Lenskaya breed will be used as a surrogate. Similarly, when the scientists are ready to clone a mammoth an elephant will be used as a surrogate

A mare of a horse species similar to the extinct Lenskaya breed will be used as a surrogate. Similarly, when the scientists are ready to clone a mammoth an elephant will be used as a surrogate

A mare of a horse species similar to the extinct Lenskaya breed will be used as a surrogate. Similarly, when the scientists are ready to clone a mammoth an elephant will be used as a surrogate

'We have so many live horses (pictured). We can get a very good choice of eggs from these female horses', said Dr Semyon Grigoriev, leading researcher at Russia's mammoth Museum

'We have so many live horses (pictured). We can get a very good choice of eggs from these female horses', said Dr Semyon Grigoriev, leading researcher at Russia's mammoth Museum

‘We have so many live horses (pictured). We can get a very good choice of eggs from these female horses’, said Dr Semyon Grigoriev, leading researcher at Russia’s mammoth Museum

But the professor said there was far more similarity between the foal (pictured) and a modern-day horse than between a mammoth and an elephant

But the professor said there was far more similarity between the foal (pictured) and a modern-day horse than between a mammoth and an elephant

But the professor said there was far more similarity between the foal (pictured) and a modern-day horse than between a mammoth and an elephant

In contrast, he said there is a very big distance between the ancient mammoth and the elephant. With the foal, 'if we have one live cell, we can multiply it and get as many embryo as we need

In contrast, he said there is a very big distance between the ancient mammoth and the elephant. With the foal, 'if we have one live cell, we can multiply it and get as many embryo as we need

In contrast, he said there is a very big distance between the ancient mammoth and the elephant. With the foal, ‘if we have one live cell, we can multiply it and get as many embryo as we need

Yakutsk, the capital of Russia's diamond-rich Sakha Republic, is a hot spot for frozen animal remains. At the end of last month it was revealed Russia is opening a brand-new £4.5 million ($5.9 million) cloning facility that aims to bring back the woolly mammoth and other long-extinct species

Yakutsk, the capital of Russia's diamond-rich Sakha Republic, is a hot spot for frozen animal remains. At the end of last month it was revealed Russia is opening a brand-new £4.5 million ($5.9 million) cloning facility that aims to bring back the woolly mammoth and other long-extinct species

Yakutsk, the capital of Russia’s diamond-rich Sakha Republic, is a hot spot for frozen animal remains. At the end of last month it was revealed Russia is opening a brand-new £4.5 million ($5.9 million) cloning facility that aims to bring back the woolly mammoth and other long-extinct species

‘There was ‘a million years of evolution between them’, he said. 

With the foal, ‘if we have one live cell, we can multiply it and get as many embryo as we need.

‘Actually if we get the living cell from the ancient tissue it will be unique by itself, because no-one managed to do this before.

‘And if we manage to clone the horse – it will be the first step to cloning the mammoth. It will help us to work out the technology’, he said. 

His researcher Hae Hyun Kim – who pioneered obtaining a living cell from a dead pet dog frozen by its owner – has relocated to Yakutsk to try and make the breakthrough.

Yakutsk, the capital of Russia’s diamond-rich Sakha Republic, is a hot spot for frozen animal remains. 

At the end of last month it was revealed Russia is opening a brand-new £4.5 million ($5.9 million) cloning facility that aims to bring back the woolly mammoth and other long-extinct species.

Plans for the ‘world class’ research centre in the city of Yakutsk will purportedly be unveiled later this month by Russian PresidentVladimir Putin during a major investment forum.

As well as woolly mammoths, Russian geneticists are set to study a number of extinct species, including the woolly rhinoceros, which died out 10,000 years ago. 

Plans for the 'world class' research centre in the city of Yakutsk will purportedly be unveiled later this month by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a major investment forum. Pictured is the foal

Plans for the 'world class' research centre in the city of Yakutsk will purportedly be unveiled later this month by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a major investment forum. Pictured is the foal

Plans for the ‘world class’ research centre in the city of Yakutsk will purportedly be unveiled later this month by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a major investment forum. Pictured is the foal

As well as woolly mammoths, Russian geneticists are set to study a number of extinct species, including the woolly rhinoceros, which died out 10,000 years ago

As well as woolly mammoths, Russian geneticists are set to study a number of extinct species, including the woolly rhinoceros, which died out 10,000 years ago

As well as woolly mammoths, Russian geneticists are set to study a number of extinct species, including the woolly rhinoceros, which died out 10,000 years ago

Scientists have long poised that woolly mammoth DNA preserved for thousands of years in Arctic permafrost could be used to clone one of the animals, and bring them back from extinction. Russia is planning to open a new genetics facility to explore ancient DNA

Scientists have long poised that woolly mammoth DNA preserved for thousands of years in Arctic permafrost could be used to clone one of the animals, and bring them back from extinction. Russia is planning to open a new genetics facility to explore ancient DNA

Scientists have long poised that woolly mammoth DNA preserved for thousands of years in Arctic permafrost could be used to clone one of the animals, and bring them back from extinction. Russia is planning to open a new genetics facility to explore ancient DNA

COULD WE RESURRECT MAMMOTHS?

Male woolly mammoths were around 12 feet (3.5m) tall, while the females were slightly smaller.

They had curved tusks up to 16 feet (5m) long and their underbellies boasted a coat of shaggy hair up to 3 feet (1m) long.

Tiny ears and short tails prevented vital body heat being lost.

Their trunks had ‘two fingers’ at the end to help them pluck grass, twigs and other vegetation.

They get their name from the Russian ‘mammut’, or earth mole, as it was believed the animals lived underground and died on contact with light – explaining why they were always found dead and half-buried.

Their bones were once believed to have belonged to extinct races of giants.

Woolly mammoths and modern-day elephants are closely related, sharing 99.4 per cent of their genes.

The two species took separate evolutionary paths six million years ago, at about the same time humans and chimpanzees went their own way.

Woolly mammoths co-existed with early humans, who hunted them for food and used their bones and tusks for making weapons and art. 

The most widely used technique, known as CRISPR/Cas9, allows scientists to create a hybrid animal from the preserved fossils of woolly mammoths and merging it with cells from a living elephant. The two species share 99.4 per cent of their DNA

The most widely used technique, known as CRISPR/Cas9, allows scientists to create a hybrid animal from the preserved fossils of woolly mammoths and merging it with cells from a living elephant. The two species share 99.4 per cent of their DNA

The most widely used technique, known as CRISPR/Cas9, allows scientists to create a hybrid animal from the preserved fossils of woolly mammoths and merging it with cells from a living elephant. The two species share 99.4 per cent of their DNA

‘De-extincting’ the mammoth has become a realistic prospect because of revolutionary gene editing techniques that allow the precise selection and insertion of DNA from specimens frozen over millennia in Siberian ice. 

The most widely used technique, known as CRISPR/Cas9, has transformed genetic engineering since it was first demonstrated in 2012.

The system allows the ‘cut and paste’ manipulation of strands of DNA with a precision not seen before.

Using this technique, scientists could cut and paste preserved mammoth DNA into Asian elephants to create and elephant-mammoth hybrid. 

Mammoths roamed the icy tundra of Europe and North America for 140,000 years, disappearing at the end of the Pleistocene period, 10,000 years ago.

They are one of the best understood prehistoric animals known to science because their remains are often not fossilised but frozen and preserved.

As many as 80 per cent of samples of Pleistocene and Holocene animals with preserved soft tissues discovered in Russia have been unearthed in the Yakutsk region. 

It is hoped that by extracting DNA from these preserved remains, researchers will gain a better understanding of the biology behind some of the largest creatures to ever roam the Earth.

Woolly mammoths co-existed with early humans, who hunted the animal to use its bones and tusks for tools, shelter, as well as food.

The animal, which could weigh a maximum of 6000kg (6 metric tons), disappeared from its mainland range at the end of the Pleistocene era, around 10,000 years ago.

The new facility, in the city of Yakutsk, will study the preserved DNA of several extinct species, including the woolly rhinoceros (artist's impression), which died out around 10,000 years ago

The new facility, in the city of Yakutsk, will study the preserved DNA of several extinct species, including the woolly rhinoceros (artist's impression), which died out around 10,000 years ago

The new facility, in the city of Yakutsk, will study the preserved DNA of several extinct species, including the woolly rhinoceros (artist’s impression), which died out around 10,000 years ago

However, isolated populations of the animal are believed to have survived on St. Paul Island, in Alaska until 5,600 years ago and on Wrangel Island, in Russia, until as recently as 4,000 years ago.

Woolly mammoths are believed to have been wiped out because of a shrinking habitat caused by climate change, as well as hunting by humans, experts say.

Several international projects, including a team at Harvard University, are already racing to use preserved mammoth DNA to resurrect the ancient species.

The new Russian centre will ‘aim to study extinct animals from living cells – and to restore such creatures as the woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, cave lion and breeds of long-gone horses’, according to the The Siberian Times.  

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE WOOLLY MAMMOTH?

The woolly mammoth roamed the icy tundra of Europe and North America for 140,000 years, disappearing at the end of the Pleistocene period, 10,000 years ago.

They are one of the best understood prehistoric animals known to science because their remains are often not fossilised but frozen and preserved.

Males were around 12 feet (3.5m) tall, while the females were slightly smaller.

Curved tusks were up to 16 feet (5m) long and their underbellies boasted a coat of shaggy hair up to 3 feet (1m) long.

Tiny ears and short tails prevented vital body heat being lost.

Their trunks had ‘two fingers’ at the end to help them pluck grass, twigs and other vegetation.

The Woolly Mammoth is are one of the best understood prehistoric animals known to science because their remains are often not fossilised but frozen and preserved (artist's impression)

The Woolly Mammoth is are one of the best understood prehistoric animals known to science because their remains are often not fossilised but frozen and preserved (artist's impression)

The Woolly Mammoth is are one of the best understood prehistoric animals known to science because their remains are often not fossilised but frozen and preserved (artist’s impression)

They get their name from the Russian ‘mammut’, or earth mole, as it was believed the animals lived underground and died on contact with light – explaining why they were always found dead and half-buried.

Their bones were once believed to have belonged to extinct races of giants.

Woolly mammoths and modern-day elephants are closely related, sharing 99.4 per cent of their genes.

The two species took separate evolutionary paths six million years ago, at about the same time humans and chimpanzees went their own way.

Woolly mammoths co-existed with early humans, who hunted them for food and used their bones and tusks for making weapons and art. 



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