Woolly Mammoth de-extinction project underway in Dallas

Woolly Mammoth
Woolly Mammoth

Modern-day Texas is home to deer, rattlesnakes, and bobcats, to name a few animals, and – according to news from a de-extinction company – soon, it might also have mammoths. The company behind the ambitious target is Colossal Biosciences, and it’s their goal to have living, breathing mammoths at their Texas-based facility by 2028.

Dallas-based company called Colossal Biosciences which is working to de-extinct the woolly mammoth, lost 4,000 years ago.
Dallas-based company called Colossal Biosciences which is working to de-extinct the woolly mammoth, lost 4,000 years ago.

In a historic building in Deep Ellum, a colossal effort is underway to bring some of the most famously extinct animals back to life. The wild mission comes from a Dallas-based company called Colossal Biosciences which is working to de-extinct the woolly mammoth, lost 4,000 years ago.

Matt James is Colossal’s chief animal officer.

“We are creating technology that’s going to change tomorrow with de-extinction but what’s amazing is that those technologies are making a difference to endangered species conservation today,” said James.

Using DNA from Asian elephants and DNA recovered from woolly mammoths frozen in the arctic tundra, researchers at Colossal Biosciences are using gene editing technology to reengineer the genome of an Asian elephant until it reflects that of a woolly mammoth.

“As it turns out the woolly mammoth and Asian elephant are 99.6% gnomically similar,” said James. And that’s just part of the project. Inside its labs in Deep Ellum, work is underway to create artificial wombs to grow a woolly mammoth calf.

Colossal has set a due date for the year 2028.

“When I was offered this position, I was sort of considering my life choices in this amazing opportunity to work at Colossal, my little brother called me and said, ‘Do you understand you could be the first modern human to ever see a woolly mammoth? You could be the first person that’s there to take that photo with a mammoth,’ and that opportunity is not lost on me. That privilege is incredible and it’s an amazing driving force,” said James.

But there’s an even bigger driving force.

James says restoring a mammoth ecosystem can preserve permafrost, or ground that remains frozen, and slow the release of greenhouse gases.

“This is probably worth 100 different lifetimes of achievement to accomplish this goal, but we have to push as fast as we can because we are facing this imminent threat of global climate change,” said James.

Since announcing its intention for the woolly mammoth, Colossal has announced similar plans for the dodo bird and Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine.

Work is also underway on the habitats to re-wild the animals at sustainable levels.

“People might think well this sounds like science fiction but it’s actually very achievable and it’s happening right now,” said James. Since launching in 2021, Colossal Biosciences has raised $225 million for its research.

“All of the technologies that we develop on the path to de-extinction, some of them have applications to human healthcare which we are monetizing,” continued Lamm. “We did that last year, we spun out our first computational biology platform, but all the technologies that could add to assisted reproductive technologies or conservation groups for zoos or animal groups worldwide, we are subsidizing and giving to the world for free.”

“We think it could be transformative for conservation. So, this de-extinction tool kit that we’re building over time with our species, we want to make available and free for every conservation group out there.”

Colossal Biosciences has also argued that the de-extinction of the woolly mammoth could also help to halt, or perhaps even reverse, some of the effects of climate change. They suggest that mammoths grazing and roaming around the Arctic tundra will allow grasslands to thrive, which would help slow thawing and the release of stored greenhouse gases within the permafrost.

Perhaps in 2028, we’ll find out.

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