A New Company With a Wild Mission: Bring Back the Woolly Mammoth - The New York Times
Sep 17, 2021 2 mins, 8 secs

With $15 million in private funding, Colossal aims to bring thousands of woolly mammoths back to Siberia.

A team of scientists and entrepreneurs announced on Monday that they have started a new company to genetically resurrect the woolly mammoth.

The company, named Colossal, aims to place thousands of these magnificent beasts back on the Siberian tundra, thousands of years after they went extinct.

“This is a major milestone for us,” said George Church, a biologist at Harvard Medical School, who for eight years has been leading a small team of moonlighting researchers developing the tools for reviving mammoths.

And if Colossal does manage to produce baby mammoth-like elephants, the company will face serious ethical questions.

The idea behind Colossal first emerged into public view in 2013, when Dr.

Beyond scientific curiosity, he argued, revived woolly mammoths could help the environment.

But when woolly mammoths were around, it was largely grassland.

Some researchers have argued that woolly mammoths were ecosystem engineers, maintaining the grasslands by breaking up moss, knocking down trees and providing fertilizer with their droppings.

Russian ecologists have imported bison and other living species to a preserve in Siberia they’ve dubbed Pleistocene Park, in the hopes of turning the tundra back to grassland.

Church argued that resurrected woolly mammoths would be able to do this more efficiently.

They zeroed in on 60 genes that their experiments suggest are important to the distinctive traits of mammoths, such as hair, fat and the woolly mammoth’s distinctively high-domed skull.

The scientists will try to make an elephant embryo with its genome modified to resemble an ancient mammoth.

Church decided to make an artificial mammoth uterus lined with uterine tissue grown from stem cells.

Heather Browning, a philosopher at the London School of Economics, said that whatever benefits mammoths might have to the tundra will need to be weighed against the possible suffering that they might experience in being brought into existence by scientists.

“You don’t have a mother for a species that — if they are anything like elephants — has extraordinarily strong mother-infant bonds that last for a very long time,” she said.

“It feels to me that a mammoth is a long way in the future,” she said

For example, scientists may be able to use Colossal’s advances to save species under threat from diseases by endowing them with genes for resistance to a pathogen, she said

“I worry that for lots of species today, the pace of climate change and the pace of habitat degradation is such that evolution isn’t going to be able to save them,” Dr

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