MadSci Network: Molecular Biology

Re: IS genetic engineereing good enough to clone mammoths?

Date: Mon Aug 7 08:02:04 2006
Posted By: Paul Szauter, Staff, Mouse Genome Informatics
Area of science: Molecular Biology
ID: 1153937053.Mb

Cloning of any mammal is a difficult process with a very low success rate, even when live cells are available in unlimited quantity. There have been some recent advances in DNA sequencing that improve sequencing of ancient DNA, such as that available from frozen mammoths. It is likely that a reasonably complete sequence of the mammoth genome could become available in a few years.

Having the complete sequence of the mammoth genome would not make it possible to clone a mammoth using currently available technology. The approach being discussed is to use frozen mammoth sperm to create a mammoth-elephant hydrid, then somehow selectively breed the hybrids to get more mammoth-like animals. To me, this is an interesting story, but is more in the realm of plausible science fiction than current science.

Here is an article on the sequencing of Mammoth DNA from the popular press:

There are some interesting speculative articles here:

There has been some recent press on sequencing of the genome of Neadertals, an extinct human ancestor. Here are some links to the recent stories on Neandertal genome sequencing:

One of the scientists involved in this project is Svante Paabo, who published a paper in 2004 on sequencing mitochondrial DNA from Neandertals:

Serre, D., Langaney, A., Chech, M., Teschler-Nicola,  M., Paunovic, M.,
Mennecier, P., Hofreiter, M., Possnert,  G, and P??bo, S.:
No evidence of Neandertal  mtDNA contribution to early modern humans. 
PLoS Biology  2: 313-317 (2004)
I think that you can resonably expect some good work on sequencing of DNA from recently extinct animals (less than 10,000 years ago), but don't expect any of these to be revived by cloning anytime soon.


Paul Szauter
Mouse Genome Informatics

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