Living Mammoth Cells Found In Eastern Russia

Researchers leading an expedition in the far northeastern Russian republic of Yakutia has discovered what they are calling the “living cells” of a mammoth,

“In a unique area at the depth of about 100 meters we discovered some rich material for reasearch – soft and adipose tissues, fur and bone marrow of a mammoth,” Semyon Grigoryev, chief of the Yana-2012 expedition, told a meeting at a university in the region’s capital city, Yakutsk.

“Controversial South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk has already manifested an interest in the discovery, Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University said in a press release last week.”

“Another group of scientists in Yakutsk signed a deal with Hwang in March to clone a woolly baby mammoth that was discovered in the permafrost on the coast of the Laptev sea last year. It is thought to have been dead for some 10,000 years.”

“Hwang, the leader of Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, was hailed as a national hero in South Korea and awarded the title ‘supreme scientist’ until some of his research on human embryos was declared bogus in 2006.”

“He received a suspended jail term in 2009 for embezzlement and accepting millions of dollars in grants under false pretences. Hwang created the world’s first dog clone, an Afghan hound puppy, in 2005. In October last year, he claimed to have cloned coyotes for the first time.”

“However, experts from the Institute of Paleontology of the Russian Academy of Sciences told RIA Novosti that the discovery of living mammoth cells is unlikely.”

“The cell structure with nucleus can be preserved under special conditions in deep-freeze,” Alexander Agadzhanyan, the chief of the Institute’s mammal laboratory, said adding that cells needed a stable exchange with the environment to stay alive.

“He also said that scientists have so far failed to fully extract the intact DNA of a mammoth.”

Some background information on mammoths:

“Woolly mammoths are common in the fossil record. Unlike most other prehistoric animals, their remains are often not literally fossilised – that is, turned into stone – but rather are preserved in their organic state. This is due in part to the frozen climate of their habitats, and to their massive size. Woolly mammoths are therefore among the best-understood prehistoric vertebrates known to science in terms of anatomy.”

“Woolly mammoths were not noticeably larger than present-day African elephants. Fully grown mammoth bulls reached heights between 2.7 m (9 ft) and 3.2 m (10 ft) while the dwarf varieties reached between 1.8 m (5.9 ft) and 2.0 m (6.6 ft).”

“Woolly mammoths had a number of adaptations to the cold, most famously the thick layer of shaggy hair, up to 1 meter in length, with a fine underwool, for which the woolly mammoth is named. The coats were similar to those of musk oxen, and it is likely mammoths moulted in summer. They also had far smaller ears than modern elephants; the largest mammoth ear found so far was only 30 cm (12 in) long, compared to 180 cm (71 in) for an African elephant. Their skin was no thicker than that of present-day elephants, but unlike elephants, they had numerous sebaceous glands in their skin which secreted greasy fat into their hair, improving its insulating qualities. They had a layer of fat up to 8 cm (3.1 in) thick under the skin which, like the blubber of whales, helped to keep them warm. Similar to reindeer and musk oxen, their haemoglobin was adapted to the cold, with three genetic mutations to improve oxygen delivery around the body and prevent freezing.”

Source: Ria Novosti and Wikipedia

Image Credits: Combarelles

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