Cells of Yuka, a 28,000-Year-Old Mammoth, Show Biological Signs of Life
Wed, April 21, 2021

Cells of Yuka, a 28,000-Year-Old Mammoth, Show Biological Signs of Life

 

In 2011, researchers discovered a well-preserved woolly mammoth in the Siberian permafrost. This mammoth, who was named “Yuka,” belonged to a resilient population of the species that managed to live in Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean until 4,000 years ago. This is extremely impressive since most mammoths died 14,000 to 10,000 years ago. 

 

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

 

The researchers have been studying how viable the biological materials of the 28,000-year-old mammoth are. According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, the process in determining if its DNA could still function was challenging. They took muscle tissue and bone marrow samples from the animal's legs. After that, they analyzed the presence of undamaged nucleus-like structures, which, once found, were extracted.

 

Photo Credit: All That's Interesting

 

The mammoth's cells showed “signs of biological activities.” Kei Miyamoto, the study author, said, “This suggests that, despite the years that have passed, cell activity can still happen and parts of it can be recreated. Until now many studies have focused on analyzing fossil DNA and not whether they still function.”

 

Photo Credit: All That's Interesting

 

They discovered that some of the animal’s cells are capable of nuclear reconstitution. This suggests that even 28,000-year-old mammoth remains could harbor active nuclei. Miyamoto admitted that “we are very far from recreating a mammoth.” However, it does complement longstanding research efforts in the scientific community to do just that. In fact, there have been several efforts to introduce the animal’s genres into the Asian elephant using the controversial CRISPR gene-editing tool — for environmental purposes related to climate change. 

“The elephants that lived in the past — and elephants possibly in the future — knocked down trees and allowed the cold air to hit the ground and keep the cold in the winter, and they helped the grass grow and reflect the sunlight in the summer,” said Harvard and MIT geneticist George Church, who co-founded CRISPR.

 

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