The astonishingly well-preserved blood from a 10,000-year-old frozen mammoth could lead to mammoth stem cells, said Ian Wilmut, the scientist responsible for Dolly, the world’s first cloned animal -- and might ultimately lead to a cloned mammoth.
There are several hurdles to such a venture, of course, and it may ultimately prove unsuccessful.
But Wilmut’s weight lends credibility to the growing possibility of bringing back the mammoth -- “de-extinction” of a long-lost species.
"I think it should be done as long as we can provide great care for the animal,” Wilmut told The Guardian. “If there are reasonable prospects of them being healthy, we should do it. We can learn a lot about them," he said.
In an essay on The Conversation, Wilmut spelled out the two main methods for turning an ancient pile of mammoth bones and blood into a living, breathing creature. The two he focused on were the use of elephant eggs to grow an embryo -- similar to the process that led to Dolly -- and the creation of embryonic mammoth stem cells.
“Stem cells of this type can also be induced to form gametes. If the cells were from a female, this might provide an alternative source of eggs for use in research, and perhaps in breeding, including the cloning of mammoths,” Wilmut wrote.
Wilmut, emeritus professor at the MRC Center for Regenerative Medicine at University of Edinburgh, made headlines in 1996 when he and his colleagues cloned Dolly the sheep. Their technique involved injecting DNA into a special egg cell and transferring the product into a third sheep, which carried the egg to term. While Dolly lived a brief life, dying in 2003, her very existence was hailed as a medical marvel.