Scientists Clone a Mouse From the Deep Freeze; Woolly Mammoths Could Be Next

By Eliza Strickland | November 4, 2008 10:08 am

cloned miceIn a big step forward for cloning research, scientists have produced healthy clones of mice that were dead and frozen for 16 years. Researchers say the new technique could allow conservationists to freeze tissue from endangered species, which could then be used to produce clones if those species become extinct. The finding also raises hopes of one day being able to resurrect extinct animals frozen in permafrost, such as the woolly mammoth, says [lead researcher] Teruhiko Wakayama…. “It would be very difficult, but our work suggests that it is no longer science fiction,” he says [New Scientist].

Researchers have previously produced clones from frozen animal tissue, but only from specimens that were preserved with special chemicals to protect cells from damage during the deep freeze. In this study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [subscription required], no such special precautions were taken when the mice were stowed in a freezer 16 years ago. Many zoos are not in a position to collect cells and freeze them in such a way as to preserve their viability, says [cloning expert] Robert Lanza … but they can put a dead animal “in a plastic bag and throw it in the freezer”, he adds. “With a kitchen freezer you could store the genetic diversity of every panda in existence” [New Scientist].

Frozen cells are difficult to work with because the cells have often burst, and the DNA is often damaged by ice crystals. But Wakayama’s team found that the mice’s brain cells had suffered less damage. The researchers injected the nuclei from the dead cells directly into unfertilized mice eggs, creating embryos. It’s not known, however, whether nuclei from cells frozen for extended periods of time can be reprogrammed to develop into cloned animals. So … the researchers extracted the inner cell mass from each embryo and generated lines of embryonic stem cells [National Geographic News]. Researchers then injected nuclei from those stem cells into new mouse eggs and implanted those eggs in living mice, eventually producing 13 healthy pups.

Bringing back endangered or extinct species may not be the most extreme application of this new technology; experts say it also opens the theoretical possibility of creating clones of cryogenically frozen humans. Says cloning and stem cell expert John Gearhart: “There is hope in bringing Ted Williams back, after all.” … The family of Williams, the Boston Red Sox hitter, had his body frozen by cryogenics firm Alcor after he died in 2002. Gearhart was only half-joking and said the study “may now stimulate the small industry of freezing parts of us before we die to bring us back in the future” [Reuters]. Of course, current regulations prohibit federal funding for research on human cloning, which is widely considered unethical and dangerous.

Related Content:
80beats: Your Quarter-Pounder Just Might Have Come From a Cloned Cow (Indirectly)
80beats: First Commercial Dog Cloning Operation Yields Five Little “Boogers”
DISCOVER: Works in Progress tells of efforts already underway to clone endangered species

Image: National Academy of Sciences

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Living World
  • Adrian

    I think that its is and its not a good idea with the mammoth thing.Because its good to see them alive and that but what if its get out of control, or the experiment would go wrong and it would mutate or grow 2, 3 or 4 times bigger than its should.Its a dangerous decision.

  • Raeanna

    I think that bringing a mammoth back in this climate would be ungodly and cruel. It would sweat to death and we would have nowhere to put it or no pratical use for such an animal.

    Please consider the common jurrasic park qoute

    “You were so preoccupied with whether or not you could , you didn’t stop to think if you should” – Dr. Malcom.

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  • jap

    Jurassic Parc is fiction, no real experiment can get as much out of control as this parc…

  • Joe

    I think Adrian brings up a wonderful point. The Mammoth could surely mutate into 4 times its expected size, perhaps if introduced to Gamma rays, or a nuclear blast, or maybe even if they just decided they would like to be a bit taller.
    Then they could trample entire cities and breathe fire and fly and most likely take over the planet. That is something I don’t think the scientists have taken into consideration. Unless of course, they have already watched Godzilla.

    Just to be clear… that’s sarcasm. And clones are produced as “babies,” so even if they did grow to immense sizes, the researchers would have quite a good deal of time to react to said situation with the use of sedatives, euthanasia, or other unnecessary things. The point is not what the Mammoths could do to us, it’s why we would do such a thing to the Mammoths. Let them remain extinct, it is not their Age. They had their time on this Earth, and they are now deceased. Let’s leave them that way… if someone wants to see a mammoth, go to a Natural History museum.

  • Krystal

    I have to say that I am thoroughly amused not only by this topic and debate but by the sarcasm used by Joe. It has been awhile since reading something on line has made me laugh out loud. I do not think it would be a good idea to bring a mammoth back simply because, though I am unsure in my faith of religion, I do believe that everything happens for a reason and that the “evolution” of all species is not as simple as primate to cave man to neanderthal to human. “Evolution”, I believe, is the act of adaptation to one’s surroundings. Maybe humans and elephants were much more “woolly” back in the mega mammal age because it was a colder climate and different atmosphere where as now, humans and elephants are devoid of such hair because it is warmer. Think about it, when someone has a big nose that runs in there family maybe that’s because they lived somewhere that had thin air and less oxygen. That person breeds with someone who has a lot of oxygen so has a small nose and their love child would be able to adapt and live in both little and a lot of oxygen. This may have been a bad example but if you have even an ounce of intelligence you will understand where I am going with this.

  • Mark

    If we can bring back one creature from extinction we can do the same for others, and maybe correct some of OUR errors

  • ranggaw0636

    Rather than mammot, maybe should bring back dodo first :p

  • Ray-Ray

    Guys chill, its years and years away. Add to that it probably wont even happen, and not for some drastic reason like Jurassic Park (its a movie, get over it) or religion (which as much as i believe in God, i do not dillude my self to beleive it will become a major consideration in science which is basically the practice of disproving religion) More likely it will not become reality simply because of lack of or reluctance to provide funding. No major companies will have any reason to provide backing for mammal reincarnation unless they are cow farms looking for a new product. And no, no celebrity is going to pay billions to play with baby mammoths or found some super secret zoo that will end in the deaths of several old screaming guys hiding in portapottys


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