Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Vast hairy beasts tramping the Arctic Tundra will help save the world.
Scientists Hope Mammoth ‘De-extinction’ Will Save Earth
1 day ago
Scientists fear that the absence of large mammals pressing down and scraping back thick layers of winter snow in the region prevents the cold from penetrating the soil. Combined with warmer summers, the Arctic permafrost is melting. As a result, the frozen soil, packed with leaves and other organic materials that haven’t decayed, will become exposed, releasing carbon into the atmosphere in the form of the greenhouse gasses carbon dioxide and methane.
The scientists are keen not to impregnate an elephant in case something goes wrong. But one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the project has been creating sufficient blood vessels in artificial womb tissue to provide support for a growing embryo.
Prof Church helped develop the most widely used technique, known as Crispr that has transformed genetic engineering since it was first demonstrated in 2012.
Derived from a defence system bacteria use to fend off viruses, it allows scientists to snip away parts of the genetic code and replace it with new DNA.
Prof Church, who spoke about Crispr at the meeting, said the mammoth project had two goals – securing an alternative future for the endangered Asian elephant and helping to combat global warming.
The scientists plan to genetically edit out the tusks, to deter ivory poachers.
I can’t help thinking a walking mountain of fresh meat wandering the frozen Arctic might attract hunters for reasons other than their ivory.