Elephants are among those species that are facing the threat of extinction, but Harvard researchers think they might have found a solution. They have thought about developing an artificial womb where they can combine elephant genes with genetic material from the long-lost woolly mammoth. By growing a hybrid between the two species, they might save elephants from the fate of the prehistoric giant.
Breeding a hybrid between elephants and mammoths
Researchers are on a constant quest to save threatened species from extinction, and they count on the power of genetics. The Harvard team, led by the well-known George Church, could collect 44 genes from woolly mammoths and bring them back to life. Now, they are planning to use these genes to try and help elephants.
Their plan is to combine the mammoth genes with elephant genetic material and create hybrids between these two species. The resulting creatures should cope with lower temperatures a lot better. Currently, one of the biggest threats for elephants is severe cold, so the results of the research might really be relevant.
The method should enhance elephants with genes that make them more resistant
Church said his main purpose wasn’t to revive the mammoth. Reviving extinct genes cannot bring a species back from the dead, but it might enhance other creatures that still populate this planet. To save elephants, they bred the hybrids in the lab, as adding mammoth genes in living elephant females could threaten them even more.
This calls for even more procedures to make everything work. Researchers are currently working on some special vascularized linen that can feed the embryos and help them grow without a surrogate. To do it, they need stem cells. They are also working on a paper where they are exploring the method to develop this linen, but it’s still a lot of work.
Before breeding the hybrid between mammoths and elephants, they will be experimenting with smaller creatures. Mixing genes from less threatened animals can help them get used to the process, but also improve the techniques that will lead to success.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons