Scientists say newly discovered woolly mammoth blood boosts cloning prospects

Eric Pfeiffer

A team of scientists says blood recovered from the preserved carcass of a woolly mammoth is reviving hopes that the extinct creature could one day be cloned back into existence.

"When we broke the ice beneath her stomach, the blood flowed out from there. It was very dark," said Semyon Grigoryev, a Russian scientist who led the expedition that found the mammoth, in an interview with Agence France-Presse.

And Grigoryev says the well-preserved state of the mammoth offers new potential for cloning the creature, either directly through its DNA or in conjunction with another closely related mammal, such as an elephant.

"This find gives us a really good chance of finding live cells, which can help us implement this project to clone a mammoth," he said.

In 2012, North-Eastern Federal University, where Grigoryev works as a professor, enlisted the aid of controversial Sooam Biotech Research Foundation researcher Hwang Woo-Suk. In 2005, Woo-Suk made history by creating the world’s first cloned dog, but much of his work was later called into question or discredited.

The website reports that a Russian expedition discovered the mammoth carcass while conducting research in April on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean. Its body is said to have been preserved for about 10,000 to 15,000 years, roughly the time the mammoth is believed to have gone extinct.

Interestingly, the scientists discovered only the lower half of the mammoth’s body. They believe it was submerged in water at the time of its death. After the water eventually froze, they believe that predators consumed the top half of the mammoth carcass.

In a gruesome but scientifically promising detail, Grigoryev claims that blood seeped from the carcass when his team made an incision in its body.

"This is the most astonishing case in my entire life. How was it possible for it to remain in liquid form? And the muscle tissue is also red, the color of fresh meat," Grigoryev said.