The Colossal company, founded by entrepreneur Ben Lamm and geneticist George Church, intends to reintroduce woolly mammoths to restore lost ecosystems.
In Jurassic Park, genetic manipulation made it possible to resuscitate dinosaurs. Thirty years later, synthetic biology does exist to overcome invasive species or halt species extinction and biodiversity loss. But beyond these objectives, some scientists have other ambitions.
On Monday, the American company Colossal took on the challenge of once again seeing woolly mammoths, a species extinct 4000 years ago, set foot on arctic soil 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. She has managed to raise $ 15 million in private funds to accomplish this goal which is greeted with skepticism by some experts.
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 on its website.
“Our goal is to create a half-elephant, half-mammoth hybrid. In fact, it would be more of an elephant [genetically speaking] with many mammoth traits. We are not there yet but it could happen. within a few years, "Professor George Church told the Guardian four years ago.
This creature, sometimes called a "mammouphant", is said to be in part an elephant, but with characteristics unique to the woolly mammoth, such as small ears, subcutaneous fat, long shaggy hair or blood more adapted to the cold.
To stop the effects of climate change
The creation of these hybrid pachyderms 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. This is thanks to the trampling, droppings and rooting of the creatures that will eventually help the landscape return to its previous state, in theory.
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, according to Colossal.
Researchers hope to produce embryos of these hybrid animals within a few years, and ultimately produce entire populations, the New York Times says. "Based on the technology available and what George [Church] is capable of, we would already have mammoths today if we had had the right amount of funding and had focused on it for the past five years." , says Ben Lamm to the Texas Monthly.
Always quoted by the Texas Monthly, Ben Lamm assures that another great reason to manufacture a new mammoth is to be at the forefront of a biotechnological revolution. But it risks meeting the mistrust of the scientific community.