(p. D3) For the first time in 43,000 years, a woolly mammoth has breathed again on earth.
Well, not the mammoth itself but its hemoglobin, the stuff in red blood cells that takes on oxygen in the lungs and offloads it in the tissues. By reconstructing the mammoth’s hemoglobin, a team led by Kevin L. Campbell of the University of Manitoba in Canada has discovered how the once-tropical species adapted to living in arctic temperatures.
Dr. Campbell’s work raises a somewhat astonishing possibility: that much of the physiology of extinct animals may one day be recoverable from the DNA extracted from their remains.
. . .
Two years ago, scientists at Penn State University sequenced a large part of the mammoth’s genome from a clump of hair. They published the sequence along with the arresting suggestion that for just $10 million it might be possible to complete the sequence and use it to generate a living mammoth.
The suggestion was not as wild as it might seem, given that the idea came from George Church, a leading genome technologist at the Harvard Medical School. The mammoth’s genome differs at about 400,000 sites from that of the African elephant. Dr. Church has been developing a method for altering 50,000 sites at a time, though he is not at present applying it to mammoths. In converting four sites on the elephant genome to the mammoth version, Dr. Campbell has resurrected at least one tiny part of the mammoth.
For the full story, see:
NICHOLAS WADE. “Mammoth Hemoglobin Offers More Clues to Its Arctic Evolution.” The New York Times (Tues., May 4, 2010): D3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date May 3, 2010.)