Life finds a way
A couple thousand years ago, the last wooly mammoth walked the Earth. Now it may soon be possible once more, as an ambitious American biotech company, Colossal, has secured tens of million dollars in funding, with the goal of bringing back the extinct species to the Arctic tundra. However, the intention is not really to recreate Jurassic Park in real life, but rather focused on increasing biodiversity and ecosystem health.
Today, scientists have discovered many ample preserved mammoth specimens, unearthed frozen by the ice, with their DNA intact. The firm’s goal is to use CRISPR, a gene-editing technique, to match mammoth DNA to that of the modern-day Asian elephant and creating an animal that will carry mammoth characteristics (most notably cold-resistance) to live in the Arctic and increase biodiversity.
The timeline of the firm’s goal is spread over a decade, with the first few years producing elephant-mammoth hybrids. Eventually, the final phase will see pure DNA mammoths brought back to life. The company also stated that the same CRISPR gene-editing technology and its application on bringing back extinct species will also generate beneficial data towards advancing human health. So, perhaps it will be a bit down the road before we see Mammoth steaks sold in bulk at Costco (NASDAQ: COST) store.
The reintroduction can also be advantageous to the environment. Grasslands produce environmental benefits such as sequestering carbon in the ground for thousands of years – it can take carbon out of the atmosphere and store it lengthily and effectively. Mammoths reintroduced in the arctic will help restore the ecosystem to become grassland. They will trample the snow and causes the cold temperature to reach deeper down in the soil, and blocks methane from leaking out of the ground into the atmosphere.
Colossal is trying to do something that has never been done before, with disruptive technologies used to get there. Even though their goals are currently focused on biodiversity, environmental health and even human genetics may also be advanced. It’s certainly still speculative, at best, but it will be another interesting technological development to track, should they gain success. Perhaps other biotechnology companies such as Biomarin Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: BMRN) or Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) are following closely on its progress and any resulting advancements in human genetics.
Let’s just hope that Jurassic Park remains in the realm of Hollywood.