Tech company hopes to return woolly mammoths to the Arctic tundra

Woolly mammoths.
Woolly mammoths Photo credit GettyImages

It has been roughly 10,000 years since the woolly mammoth roamed the Earth, but now one company is trying to bring the creature back.

Colossal, a tech company founded by Ben Lamm and George Church, was launched on Monday in hopes to "rapidly advance the field of species de-extinction," according to a press release from the company.

Lamm is a technology and software entrepreneur, while Church is a biologist at Harvard Medical School. Their company's goal is to use gene-editing "to restore the woolly mammoth to the Arctic tundra," the release said.

As a genetic professor at Harvard Medical School, Church has worked in this field before. For eight years, he led a group researching different methods of recreating mammoths, The New York Times reported.

The research from Colossal could see mammoth calves within four to six years, Lamm told USA Today.

To do so, Colossal will work to reprogram elephant DNA with mammoth characteristics, like having thick hair and layers of fat, to help the hybrid animals survive in the Siberian tundra, the Guardian reported.

Researchers are planning on targeting 60 genes that would make up the mammoth's distinctive characteristics; to do so, they will use elephant eggs or tissue. If they can create new mammoths, they believe they could revitalize grasslands in the arctic.

Some are not entirely on board with the project, saying it may not be doable. Victoria Herridge shared these thoughts with the Guardian. Herridge, an evolutionary biologist at the Natural History Museum in London, thinks the project "isn't plausible."

"The scale at which you'd have to do this experiment is enormous," she said. "You are talking about hundreds of thousands of mammoths which each take 22 months to gestate and 30 years to grow to maturity."

Lamm addressed these concerns saying, "there have been some questions raised on whether the revival of the woolly mammoth can be done at the required speed needed to make a positive impact on the degrading Arctic ecosystem."

"We are confident that Colossal is up to this challenge as we have brought on world-renowned scientists and researchers that are passionate about bringing the woolly mammoth back and successfully rewilding them into the Arctic."

On Monday, Colossal said that the project could have "major climate change-combatting properties including carbon sequestering, methane suppression and light reflection."