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A handful of 28,0000-year-old woolly mammoth cell parts were recently "woken up" for a short time in a new experiment, but cloning the ice age beasts is still a long way off.
In the experiment, the researchers extracted cells from Yuka, a woolly mammoth mummy (Mammuthus primigenius) whose remains were discovered in the Siberian permafrost in 2011. Then, the scientists recovered the least-damaged nuclei (structures that contain genetic material) from each cell and popped the nuclei into mouse eggs.
Researchers - DNA - Mouse - Eggs - Answer
But why did the researchers put mammoth DNA into mouse eggs? The answer has to do with an egg's ability to replicate DNA and divide into more cells.
"The eggs have all of the living cellular machinery that you might need to do error correction and fix damage that has happened within the nuclei," said Beth Shapiro, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was not involved with the study. "[The scientists] basically just stuck [the mammoth nuclei] in there and said, 'All right, cellular machinery, do your thing.'"
Machinery - DNA - Chromosomes - Piece - Broken
And, at first, the cellular machinery did try to fix damaged DNA within the chromosomes and piece together the broken bits, Shapiro said. "But [the egg] can only do so much," she told Live Science. "When the nuclei are badly damaged, then it's just not possible to reconstitute this to what you would need to do to actually bring it back to life."
As a result, none of the mouse-mammoth hybrid cells entered cell division, a step that is necessary to create an embryo and, perhaps one day, clone a mammoth.
Results - Impossibility - Mammoth - NT - Nuclear-transfer
"The results presented here clearly show us again the de facto impossibility to clone the mammoth by current NT [nuclear-transfer] technology," the researchers wrote in the study, published online March 11 in the journal Scientific Reports.
Put another way, "it's...
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