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Woolly mammoth might come back

india Updated: Aug 21, 2006 16:27 IST
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Descendants of extinct mammals like the giant woolly mammoth might one day walk the Earth again. It isn’t exactly Jurassic Park, but Japanese researchers are looking at the possibility of using sperm from frozen animals to inseminate living relatives.

So far they’ve succeeded with mice — some frozen as long as 15 years — and lead researcher Dr Atsuo Ogura says he would like to try experiments in larger animals. “In this study, the rates of success with sperm from 15 year-frozen bodies were much higher than we expected. So the likelihood of mammoths revival would be higher than we expected before,” said Ogura.

While frozen sperm is commonly used by sperm banks, the team led by Ogura, at Riken Bioresource Center in Ibaraki, Japan, worked with sperm from whole frozen mice and from frozen mouse organs.

“If spermatozoa of extinct mammalian species can be retrieved from animal bodies that were kept frozen for millions of years in permafrost, live animals might be restored by injecting them into (eggs) from females of closely related species,” the researchers said in a paper appearing in Tuesday’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Intact mammoth bodies have been excavated from Siberian permafrost. Dr Robert W. McGaughey, laboratory director at the Institute for Reproductive Studies, commented that since some of the whole frozen mice had been held for 15 years before obtaining the sperm nuclei “It clearly is possible that some day we may be able to obtain offspring from extinct animals frozen at reasonable temperatures for very long periods of time.”

Elephants would be a potential candidate for insemination with frozen mammoth sperm, Ogura added.

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