Scripps Howard: A team of scientists have reconstructed most of the genetic code of the woolly mammoth and have, in effect, come up with an instruction manual for recreating a creature that became extinct 10,000 years ago in the last Ice Age.
One of the scientists surmised that it would take another 10 to 20 years to do so but now the ability to revive other extinct species like the saber-tooth tiger and the mastodon, any creature that had hair or fur and lived within the last 100,000 years.
The key to spelling out more than 3 billion DNA bases that make up the mammoth genome was that the DNA had been preserved relatively uncontaminated in balls of hair and frozen in the Siberian tundra.
The problem with DNA from fossilized bones — and why “Jurassic Park” will remain a movie and not a possibility, at least until better techniques are developed — is that it is hopelessly contaminated.
The key to making a modern mammoth is creating a mammoth embryo, either by reengineering the cells of an elephant, a close relative that took a separate evolutionary path about 6 million years ago, or by creating mammoth cells from scratch, a technique that is still three to 10 years away.
Penn State biochemist and co-author of the research, Stephan Schuster, told the Associated Press, “It could be done. The question is, just because we might be able to do it one day, should we do it?”