Scientists Attempt to Clone Extinct Horse From Siberian Foal Mummy

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Russia is now planning a “Paleo Park”.

When I read Michael Crichton’s famous Jurassic Park in the 1990’s, I knew enough about the approach to sense that cloning could be used to bring back extinct animals.

It appears that Crichton’s novel was indeed prophetic, as scientists are attempting to extract cells from the mummy of a 40,000-year-old foal from Siberia in an attempt to use the sample to clone the extinct species back into existence.

The male baby horse was discovered last month, according to The Siberian Times, in permafrost in Batagaika crater, which residents superstitiously call the “gateway to the underworld.” Nearby Yakutsk, a remote city in eastern Siberia, is often cited as being the coldest city in the world.

A team of scientists from South Korea and Russia estimates the foal, called the Lenskaya or Lena horse, was about 20 days old when it died. The species of horse, now extinct, is between 30,000 and 40,000 years old. Thanks to the extremely cold temperatures, the animal’s tissue was preserved enough for the scientists to obtain samples.

Semyon Grigoriev, head of the laboratory at the Mammoth Museum, told the Times that the horse was “well-preserved” and a “unique find.” There is no damage to the horse’s carcass and even its hair is intact – which Grigoriev said is “incredibly rare for such ancient finds.”

Interestingly, Russia is planning a major new £4.5 million cloning facility, a “Paleo Park,” that aims to bring back to life the extinct woolly mammoth and rhinoceros as well as other long-gone species.

The cloning laboratories – some sunk deep in the permafrost soil – aim to extend research by Russian scientists who are already working closely with South Korean specialists hoping to restore extinct species.

Yakutsk is capital of diamond-rich Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, where 80 percent of finds of samples of Pleistocene and Holocene animals with preserved soft tissues have been made.

The scheme of the new centre will be unveiled at the 4th Eastern Economic Forum hosted by President Putin opening on September 11 in Vladivostok.

It will “aim to study extinct animals from living cells – and to restore such creatures as the woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, cave lion and breeds of long-gone horses”, reported The Siberian Times.

Others are directing their research interests to the most famous predator of the Paleolithic era: the sabre tooth tiger. The scientists are taking the same research approach as used in Crichton’s best-seller, as they plan to use the genetic code of a living species to bring back its extinct kin.

San Francisco interior designer Ken Fulk, known for his eclectic style, lavish parties, tech/ social media clients including Sean Parker, and writeups about his work in Vanity Fair, issued a news release today stating that his love of taxidermy has led him to donate a rare saber-tooth tiger from his collection to Stewart Brand’s Revive & Restore Foundation, for the purpose of using cells to clone a cat with the help of UC-Santa Cruz’s paleogenomics lab.

“Fulk’s 10,000-year-old specimen, which was gifted to him during his annual vacation to the Alaskan fishing village of Noatak, was discovered frozen in a glacier cave near Eschscholtz Bay,” stated the news release, accompanied by the photo shown above. “By extracting DNA from the fur and claws of this incredibly preserved saber-toothed tiger, the geneticists at University of California-Santa Cruz paleogenomics lab may be able to bring the prehistoric large cat back from extinction. Using the genome of an Asiatic lion as a model, the scientists will attempt to recode Smilodon’s genome to create a living cell that would then be used with existing cloning technology.

These developments do have some significant ethical considerations and safety concerns, as these animals’ niches no longer exist and living animals may not be immune to the pathogens they may have.