Sunday, March 17, 2019

Woolly Mammoth To Make Comeback?

                “Cells from a woolly mammoth that died 28,000 years ago have begun to show ‘signs of biological [activity]’ after they were implanted in mouse cells.” So read the first line of the Fox News story.
                The story went on to say that research published in Scientific Reports documents the startling cell activity from the mammoth excavated from Siberian permafrost in 2011. It noted that Kei Miyamoto, a member of the team that conducted the research, told Agence France-Presse: “This suggests that, despite the years that have passed, cell activity can still happen and parts of it can be recreated.” However, there was significant damage to the beast’s cells, leading Miyamoto to add: “I have to say we are very far from recreating a mammoth.”
                Many scientists believe the mammoths, who became extinct over 4,000 years ago, died off due to climate change and human predation. (If that’s the case, it certainly wasn’t man-caused climate change, as there was no industrial activity or fossil fuel use at the time. And no planes, trains or automobiles). Now, some plucky researchers are attempting to bring the woolly mammoth back, through the use of the CRISPR gene editing tool. The Harvard Woolly Mammoth Revival Team (HWMRT), for one, is trying to introduce mammoth genes into the Asian elephant…for conservation reasons.  George Church, the head of the team, made the following statement to Live Science in May of 2018: “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. Those two [factors] combined could result in a huge cooling of the soil and a rich ecosystem.”
                Say what?! Knocking down trees allows cold air to hit the ground and makes the winters colder? The giant mammoths helped the grass grow? They didn’t eat it or trample it? The grass reflected sunlight, cooling summers down? So human-caused deforestation is devastating but if large, hairy pachyderms do it it’s beneficial to the planet? I thought trees cooled the area and provided oxygen. Do rocks and sand not reflect sunlight? I think Dr. Church has been knocking down too many double vodkas.
                Be that as it may, scientists are thrilled with the new developments. The consensus seems to be that it’s only a matter of time before we will be able to “bring back” a previously extinct being. In fact, researchers say if progress continues to be made at the current rate, one day soon they hope to reanimate Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

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