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South Korean, Russian Scientists to Clone Wooly Mammoth

Scientists from South Korea, Russia and China have launched a bid to clone the long-extinct wooly mammoth.

Agence France-Presse reports that a deal was signed on Tuesday between controversial South Korean cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-Suk of the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation and Vasily Vasiliev of the North-Eastern Federal University of the Sakha Republic in Russia. Hwang, once a national hero for his intrepid cloning work, including Snuppy, the world’s first cloned dog, was disgraced after some of his work creating human stem cells was found to have been faked.

Now the controversial scientist has his sights set on the wooly mammoth, a giant tusked creature that has been extinct for thousands of years. Sooam says the research will begin this year if the Russians can deliver the remains of a well-preserved specimen uncovered in Siberia due to thawing caused by climate change.

“The first and hardest mission is to restore mammoth cells,” Sooam researcher Hwang In-Sung told AFP. The researchers plan on replacing the nuclei of egg cells from an elephant with those taken from the mammoth’s somatic cells in order to create embryos with mammoth DNA that will be implanted into Indian elephants, which would hopefully give birth to baby mammoths.

“This will be a really tough job, but we believe it is possible because our institute is good at cloning animals,” Hwang In-Sung said. Indeed, South Koreans are world leaders in cloning, having already produced animals including a cow, a cat, dogs a pig and a wolf. Hwang Woo-Suk cloned eight coyotes last year as well.

Also participating in the project is the Beijing Genomics Institute in China.


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