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Last Updated: Friday, 18 July, 2003, 00:17 GMT 01:17 UK
Scientists 'to clone mammoth'
Drawing of a mammoth
Expo 2005 organisers want to display a mammoth
Russian and Japanese scientists are hoping to clone mammoths from what they think are the legs of the extinct animal discovered in Russia's northern Yakutsk region.

Specimens of the animal discovered last year have arrived at Kinki University's Gifu Science and Technology Centre in western Japan.

"The bone marrow, skin and muscle specimens, frozen in nitrogen liquid... look fine. We first have to confirm whether these are really of a mammoth," said the centre's president, Akira Iritani.

The DNA may be damaged and not good enough for cloning, as the remains are believed to be 200,000-300,000 years old, he said.

The scientists are planning to use elephant eggs in the cloning process.

Frozen bodies start to rot the moment they come out of ice
Takeshi Matsuda, mammoth expert

Vektor Research Centre for Virology and Biotechnology of Russia has been working on the project alongside the Japanese scientists.

Last year, the Vladivostok News in Russia reported that scientists believed they could resurrect extinct animals - such as the mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros - to create a prehistoric safari park in northern Siberia.

The region's limited infrastructure was seen as one of the obstacles to establishing such a sanctuary.

Mammoth exhibit

Mammoths appear to be all the rage at the moment. The central Japanese city hosting the Expo 2005 world exposition plans to excavate an entire frozen mammoth and display it at the fair, organisers have said.

Seto and the other cities in Aichi prefecture, 250 kilometres (155 miles) west of Tokyo, have set up the Mammoth Excavation and Exhibition Organisation Committee to send a mission to explore the Siberian permafrost.

Trench containing remains of mammoth
Melting permafrost is revealing mammoths
"I believe chances of success will be 80-90%, given technological advances and information accumulated over the years," said Shinji Furukawa, chairman of the new committee.

If realised, the display would greatly impress visitors, he said.

An expedition will leave for Khatanga and Yakutsk in Siberia at the end of the summer. A second expedition has been scheduled for 2004, while organisers hope to transport the frozen animal to Japan by May 2005.

Mr Furukawa said the first expedition would cost about 100m yen ($847,000).

Several full-body mammoths have been found in the past, according to Takeshi Matsuda, a committee member.

"But none of them has been excavated and preserved in a perfect condition... as frozen bodies start to rot the moment they come out of ice," he said.

"It is not a matter of whether there are full bodies but a question of excavation timing and methods," he added.




SEE ALSO:
Neanderthal clues from mammoth find
25 Jun 02  |  Science/Nature
Mammoths trek home
27 Nov 01  |  England
When mammoths roamed England
02 Nov 01  |  Science/Nature
Hunt for the mammoth is on
07 Dec 00  |  Asia-Pacific


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