When Jurassic Park hit the big screen more than three decades ago, it felt like a window into the future, the ability to bring previously extinct animals and creatures back to life because of DNA sampling. Sure, though at the time it was nothing more than a science fiction escape, there was just enough seeming reality to the venture it felt at least a little possible at some point in our timeline. Well, though it isn’t going to be a dinosaur, we might at some point get another extinct animal back into the mix thanks to advanced technology. Scientists are working to bring the woolly mammoth back from the extinction grave and now they are starting to round out a timeline of when something like this could actually happen.
The company Colossal has announced (via Inverse) that they have plans to bring back the woolly mammoth from extinction, claiming they have all of the pieces in place to begin making this happen. They’ve laid out a comprehensive plan to make it so, with a clear multi-step (and maybe improbable) process that would allow for the beast to come back into the mix and actually thrive in the current environment. Led by Ben Lamm (the money) and George Church (the science) the company is working on “de-extincting” the animal using CRISPR technology which is used for gene editing. It would be the first time in 4,000 years that we saw a woolly mammoth that is thought to have gone extinct for good with most dying off more than 10,000 years ago.
The plan that Colossal lays out includes a number of different initiatives beyond just putting some DNA out there and watching a woolly mammoth grow, which is a technological understatement for sure. Not only does the company want to bring a woolly mammoth back, but they are hoping to have a positive environmental impact as well. As part of the company’s plan, they are hoping to have a hand in what they call the deceleration of the arctic permafrost by “preventing the emission of greenhouse gases” that are contributing to the melting. The reason for this is to ensure there is an environment for their woolly mammoth to not only live but thrive.
In conjunction with this initiative, they will begin using CRISPR technology, which is still somewhat controversial among scientists and ethicists. The plan is to place woolly mammoth genomes into Asian elephant egg cells in order to begin the process of birthing one of the actual extinct animals. Will this end up being a true woolly mammoth? Well, that much is up for debate considering it would stem directing from the original animal. They would also need another elephant to act as a surrogate during the gestation process.
So what is the proposed timeline for all of this to happen and to see an actual woolly mammoth roaming to arctic tundra? Sooner than you might think. The initial estimates from Colossal have the process taking 4-5 years in total if all of the markers are hit correctly. That feels like the future barreling down on us faster than expected. And if we’ve learned anything from movies, there is literally nothing that can go wrong with this kind of scientific endeavor. I think the Jurassic Park franchise has taught us as much.