Frozen Mouse Cloned, Are Mammoths Next?
The successful cloning by Japanese researchers of a mouse kept in deep freeze for 16 years has sparked hope that prehistoric Woolly Mammoths may walk the Earth again one day.
Cloning remains a futuristic technology even though dozens of different animals have been successfully cloned since Dolly the sheep made history in 1996. A Japanese research team from the Institute of Physical and Chemical Science at RIKEN (a government-funded natural sciences research institute) has now gone "back to the future" by cloning mice from donor mouse tissue kept frozen for the past 16 years!
According to results published in the November 4 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the 4 healthy baby mice were the result of a new nuclear transfer technique that allows non-living cells to be used as DNA donors. Up until now, only living cells have been successfully cloned. To quote PNAS, "Nuclear transfer techniques could be used to "resurrect" animals or maintain valuable genomic stocks from tissues frozen for prolonged periods without any cryopreservation." The cloned mice are fertile as well, having already produced offspring with normal mice.
With that stated, heirs of the late, cryogenically preserved baseball player Ted Williams shouldn't get too excited... "Cloning a human is much more difficult than cloning a mouse, and is currently impossible using today's technologies," said Teruhiko Wakayama, team leader at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Science.
On the other hand, the research is a huge leap toward the revival of extinct animal species like the Woolly Mammoth. The last mammoths walked the snowy steppes of Siberia at least 10,000 years ago and thousands of bodies lay locked in the permafrost. The baby mammoth shown above was discovered in Russia and shipped to Japan, where scientists have been at the forefront of mammoth research.
One of the most prominent Japanese mammoth experts, Prof. Akira Iritani of Kinki University, commented that "This cloning research might act as a fillip to the mammoth-revival project." Wakayama agrees, saying "It would be very difficult, but our work suggests that it is no longer science fiction." (via Daily Yomiuri Online, images via Daily Mail)