Dolly the sheep was the world's first successful attempt at cloning mammals, and now scientists have turned their attention toward another type of farm animal. Researchers from Korea and Russia are "confident of success" in extracting cells from a 42,000-year-old extinct foal and using those cells to bring the Lenskaya horse breed back to life.
This "Jurassic Park" attempt to clone an animal that hasn't existed for thousands of years is garnering a lot of international attention. South Korean and Russian scientists have been working together for months on the joint project. They hope to finish up their work--with an embryo of a cloned horse--by the end of April.
This project was only made possible after the groundbreaking discovery of a near perfectly preserved Lenskaya foal. The Lenskaya breed of horse lived 40,000 years ago in the coldest regions of Siberia. The horses were able to withstand extremely cold temperatures, but their species eventually went extinct. The male foal being used for possible cloning was uncovered buried in permafrost in an area in Siberia called Batagaika crater. According to U.S. News, locals call this area the "gateway to the underworld," and it's near what is considered to be the coldest city in the world.
Because of the extreme temperatures and layers of permafrost, the foal was unearthed fully intact with even its hair still attached. It's estimated the foal died when it was only 20 days old and was left in the crater untouched for 42,000 years.
Semyon Grigoriev, head of the laboratory at the Mammoth Museum, reported that the foal's muscle tissues were undamaged, and he and his team are now looking for living cells to use for the cloning. He said,
"If we get live cells from this ancient baby horse, it is a wonderful promise to people in terms of cloning."
If they're successful, the plan is make a cloned embryo and implant it into a surrogate mare. They're deciding between two modern-day horse breeds that are the most similar to the ancient breed. The mare will carry the baby to term, give birth, and be given a role in raising it. All of this experimenting is reportedly being used as a stepping stone to accomplish an even bigger goal--cloning the extinct woolly mammoth.
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Featured image via Siberian Times