New gene-editing techniques might revive some woolly mammoth genes in the hope of fighting off the effects of climate change. These huge animals have been extinct for about 4,000 years but now, they might prove to be the key to a very modern problem. So far, researchers have tried to bring the enormous woolly beasts back to life using their DNA which has been preserved in permafrost. However, recently, some experts have been trying a different approach to this issue. Their idea is not to bring back woolly mammoths exactly the way they were before extinction. Instead, their plan is to combine some of their genes with those of modern Asian elephants.
According to George Church, a Harvard and MIT geneticist and leader of the team conducting the project, this would drastically increase the elephants’ resistance to low temperatures. Bringing back woolly mammoths as they were might not even be a very good idea in today’s world. However, their special genes might lend a helping hand in today’s global warming issue. By making Asian elephants more tolerant to cold, they could be reintroduced to the northern areas of the planet. There, they could keep the areas warm during wintertime, therefore making that ecosystem a lot more climate-friendly.
Mixing woolly mammoths’ genes with those of Asian elephants
When the mammoths were living in the so-called “mammoth steppe”, the area was very rich in grasses. However, after they went extinct, the area gave in to the tundra. According to experts, these areas play a very big role in the climate change phenomenon taking place nowadays.
Church says that back then, elephants helped cold air hit the ground during wintertime by knocking down trees. In the summer, they allowed grass to grow and reflect sunlight. By combining these two factors now could bring back a richer ecosystem and trigger a cooling of the soil.
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