13 Sep 2012

Mammoth remains found in remote part of Russia

6:13 am on 13 September 2012

Scientists who found well-preserved woolly mammoth remains in a remote part of Russia hope they might contain material necessary to clone the beast, which is long extinct.

Members of the Yana 2012 expedition, an international team, found the remains last week in a tunnel in the Yakutia region on Russia's Arctic coast.

The remains included fur and bone marrow, with some cell nuclei intact.

Professor Semyon Grigoryev of North-East Federal University said the next step will be to search for living cells among the material.

"All we need for cloning is one living cell, which means it can reproduce autonomously. Then it will be no problem for us to multiply them to tens of thousands cells," he said.

However, speculation that the scientists were close to making a breakthrough akin to Jurassic Park by bringing the mammoth back to life, is exaggerated.

"We are counting on our region's permafrost to have kept some cells alive. But it is unlikely," said Professor Grigoryev.

He said the remains would need to have been at a stable temperature between -4 and -20 degrees for any cells to remain alive.

Some media have reported that living cells had been discovered, but Professor Grigoryev said that had been due to a translation error as the word "intact" had been translated from English into Russian as "living".

"What we have found are intact cells, with a whole nucleus," he said, adding that living cells, if found, would provide the necessary samples to make a living clone.

Expedition members came from the United States, Canada, South Korea, Sweden and Britain.

A previous find, discovered in the same region two years ago, yielded the remains of a 40,000-year-old female baby woolly mammoth, named Yuka by scientists, as well as those of an ancient bison and horse. Those finds lacked living cells.