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The 90-year-old still dreaming of resurrecting and mammoth



After decades of trying, the Japanese biologist admits he almost gave up. But when he heard of a well-preserved specimen embedded in the Siberian permafrost in 2012, he knew he had to investigate.

Turns out the 28,000-year-old baby mammoth, dubbed "Yuka," was just what Iritani wanted. In a groundbreaking experiment, his research team successfully revived Yuka's ancient cells, the journal Scientific Reports revealed this month.

"I've been trying to find dormant mammoth cells for 20 years but I'm (now) 90, I thought I would just give up and accept death, "says Iritani, an animal reproduction expert and former director of the Institute of Advanced Technology at Kindai University in Wakayama, Japan.

" I'm so happy with this latest research. ”

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In the experiment, using a process known as nuclear transfer, Japanese and Russian scientists collected 88 nucleus-like structures from Yuka's muscle tissue and transferred them into mouse ooctyes – cells that can divide to form an ovum, or female reproductive cell, in the ovaries.

Iritans then used a live cell imaging technique to see if long-dormant cells would react.

"I was looking under the microscope at night while I was alone in the lab," he says. "I was so moved when I saw the cells stir. I've been hoping for this for 20 years."

Yuka and a female woolly mammoth are displayed for a show in Yokohama, suburban Tokyo on July 12, 2013.

Wooly mammoths, which were about the size of modern African elephants, died about 4,000 years ago. ] Yuka, and female woolly mammoth is displayed for an exhibition in Yokohama, Suburban Tokyo on July 12, 2013.

No new mammoths [ThisbreakthroughdoesnotmeanthatIritan'steamwillbecloningmammothsanytimesoonhowever

Yuka's cells were severely damaged over the millennia. (19659004) "Collecting elephant eggs is difficult as you need to think of the animal's welfare, "says Kei Miyamoto, a member of the research team at Kindai University. "

Live-cell imaging techniques show and 28,000-year-old mammoth cell (right) being "reawakened. team is also aware of ethical questions over their work. However, he argues that understanding more about past extinctions will help scientists better protect endangered species.

"It's because of people that certain animals have gone extinct," Iritani says. "It's my duty to conserve species."


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