Washington, January 11 (ANI): New research indicates that scientists are making remarkable advances that are bringing us closer than ever before to the possibility of resurrecting extinct species.
In the age of DNA, we now know that vanished creatures, like mammoths and mastodons, ground sloths and sabretooth cats, are ultimately nothing more than sequences of the four letters - A, C, T, and G - that make up the genetic blueprint or code of life.
The codes for extinct animals were thought to have died along with them, until recently, when machines like one at the Smithsonian's DNA lab started working magic.
"Just the study of ancient DNA only broke onto the scene 20 years ago or so. The idea that we could harvest DNA from extinct creatures, from fossil bones, learn something about the past," Sean Carroll, a professor of molecular biology and genetics at the University of Wisconsin.
So, dusty old specimens that have been tucked away in the drawers of natural history museums like the Smithsonian are suddenly potential treasure troves of genetic information.
Just last year, using only a few clumps of wooly mammoth hair, scientists at Penn State were able to extract enough DNA fragments to figure out most of its genetic sequence, making the woolly mammoth the first extinct animal to have its genome decoded.
As for the question of whether resurrecting one of these creatures is really possible, scientists say that one option would be genetic engineering.
Take a living animal that's related to the mammoth, like the elephant, figure out all the places where its DNA differs from the mammoth's, and then alter the elephant's DNA to make it match.
But, that's not possible just yet; so, scientists would have to use the option of cloning.
When asked about the possibility of obtaining DNA of extinct animals like the woolly mammoth in order to clone it, Carroll said, "Yes, I think we'll be able to get much, if not all, of the woolly mammoth DNA."
"And the great advantage there is that a lot of the specimens are in permafrost. So they're sorta been conveniently frozen for us, which preserves DNA, preserves tissue better," he added. (ANI)