Monday, December 19, 2005

Decoding of Mammoth Genome Might Lead to Resurrection

From LiveScience.
Scientists have mapped part of the genome of the woolly mammoth, a huge mammal that's been extinct for about 10,000 years.

The breakthrough could lead to recreating the creatures.

A team led by Hendrik Poinar at McMaster University unlocked secrets of the creature's nuclear DNA by working with a well-preserved 27,000-year-old specimen from Siberia. Colleagues at Penn State sequenced 1 percent of the genome in a few hours and say they expect to finish the whole genome in about a year if funding is provided.

"We were stunned," Poinar said today. “Once you successfully sequence a genome, there are a million interesting questions one can begin to address."
“More importantly our discovery means that recreating extinct hybrid animals is theoretically possible," Poinar said.

The scientists are already pondering the ethics involved.

"McMaster is already planning the first conference devoted to the ethics of bringing extinct organisms back to life," said Mamdouh Shoukri, vice-president research and international affairs. "We have an obligation as scientists to explore and maintain the responsible use of research."

The study will be detailed later this week in the journal Science.

I have a couple of comments here:
  • This is really cool! The idea of having mammoths running around is just too neat for words! And - if the global warming guys are right and the Gulf Stream is shutting down – then a new ice age in Europe would provide quite the perfect habitat. (There’s a French joke in there somewhere, but I won’t go for it.)

  • What on earth are the ethical consequences of cloning a wooly mammoth? Let me get this straight: there are no ethical problems with growing human babies embryos in order to harvest them for parts stem cells, but we have questions about growing wooly mammoths? Come, Lord Jesus; I think the “iniquity of the Amorites” is now complete[1].

  • “Decoding of mammoth genome might lead to resurrection?” Are they sure they know what that word means? I think we might conceivably be able to reconstruct a mammoth. Resurrection implies the recreation of a particular individual. Resurrection takes a God; the best we can do is make a copy.

[1] Genesis 15:16