Is science fiction going to come true?

The American company Colossal has been trying since Monday to revive the woolly mammoths, a species that was extinct 4,000 years ago, using genetic manipulation techniques.

"Colossal will launch a practical and efficient model of de-extinction and will be the first company to apply advanced genetic modification techniques to reintegrate the woolly mammoth into the arctic tundra," the company said in a statement.

Create a hybrid species

De-extinction, the concept of creating an animal similar to an extinct species using genetics, is not unanimous in the scientific community, with some researchers doubting its feasibility or worrying about the risks of its application.

Created by entrepreneur Ben Lamm and geneticist George Church, Colossal intends to insert DNA sequences of woolly mammoths, collected from remains preserved in Siberian soil, into the genome of Asian elephants, in order to create a species hybrid.

Asian elephants and woolly mammoths have 99.6% similar DNA, Colossal points out.

An ecological goal

The creation of these hybrid pachyderms and then their reintroduction into the tundra should make it possible "to restore disappeared ecosystems which could help to stop or even reverse the effects of climate change", assures the company. The genetically modified woolly mammoths could in particular "give new life to the arctic prairies", which make it possible to capture carbon dioxide and remove methane, two greenhouse gases.

The biotech company has managed to raise $ 15 million in private funds to accomplish this goal which is greeted with skepticism by some experts.

“There are lots of issues that are going to arise in this process,” biologist Beth Shapiro told The

New York Times

.

“It's not a de-extinction.

There will never be mammoths on earth again.

If it works, it will be a chimeric elephant, a totally new organism, synthetic and genetically modified, ”tweeted Tori Herridge, biologist and paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London.

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