More and more companies are becoming interested in the potential of CRISPR to upend medicine. Perhaps, it is safe to say that just one company has expressed interest in using this gene-editing system to produce a living, breathing, woolly mammoth.
A TechCrunch report said that's the main mission of Colossal; a startup company co-founded by George Church, a maverick geneticist, and Ben Lamm, an entrepreneur and ex-CEO of Hypergiant, a firm that aims to bring one of such creatures back to life through CRISPR to edit the existing Asian elephants' genomes.
In that sense, the creature would be the same as a woolly mammoth, with the scientific name Mammuthus primigenius, although it would be more akin to an elephant-mammoth hybrid.
George Church's Project of De-Extinction
It is a project that the lab of Church has been invested in for many years. But now, they have been able to sell investors on that idea of de-extinction of a mammoth, a notion beyond a science-fiction project.
In connection to this, Colossal announced its launch along with a $15 million seed round led by former Chief Executive Officer of Legendary Entertainment, Thomas Tull.
Church developed the first direct genomic sequencing method during the 1980s and continued in helping to initiate the Human genome project.
To date, he's leading synthetic biological initiatives at Wyss Institute, where he has concentrated on synthesizing the whole genes and genomes.
Bringing Woolly Mammoth Back to Life
Resurrecting a woolly mammoth has long been in the crosshairs of Church. Specifically, in 2017, his Harvard University laboratory was able to add 45 genes to the Asian elephant's genome in an attempt to recreate the said species.
Through a sponsored study agreement, this firm will fully back the mammoth project at Church's lab. The company's pitch for returning the mammoth to life, as indicated in the press release, is to fight against the impacts of climate change through the restoration of the ecosystem.
Elaborating on that point, Lamm said, their goal is not only to bring back the Mammoth adding, "that's a feat in itself." He also said it is for the mammoths' successful re-wilding.
Essentially, around one million plant and animal species are endangered with extinction. This mammoth project of Colossal, if it succeeds, would suggest they have created the capacity to both repopulations of recent dead creations and even performance of what Lamm calls "genetic rescue" to prevent them from vanishing in the first place.
Genetic rescue works, according to Smithsonian Magazine, by adding genetic diversity
of these kinds of dangerously numbered populations, through the introduction of specific individuals, or possibly, someday, by directly editing their genes.
There's some evidence already that this process is plausible. In February of this year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced via a news release the first successfully cloned endangered species named Elizabeth Ann, a black-footed ferret native to North America.
Bringing back extinct animal species might contribute to the fight against the impact of climate change, although it does not solve the root problem.
As long as climate change's human-based drivers stay intact, this report said, there is not much hope for a newly resurrected creature that killed due to climate change, the first time. In fact, changing climates were among the reasons megafauna died off in the first place.
Related information about resurrecting woolly mammoths is shown on CBS Mornings' YouTube video below:
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