Scientists have announced $15 million in funding for a project to combine woolly mammoth DNA with that of Asian elephants to create calves that can walk the Arctic tundra.
The funding was raised by new genetics and bioscience company Collasal, co-founded by Harvard Medical School professor of genetics George Church and tech entrepreneur Ben Lamm.
The project will start with either an elephant egg or skin cells from an Asian elephant, which can be converted into stem cells.
The cells would then be modified to carry mammoth DNA for hair, fat layers, and cold-climate adaptations.
The embryos would be placed into a surrogate mother or an artificial womb—which still needs to be created—to be carried to term.
Researchers are saying that it could take just 6 years to see our first elephant-mammoth hybrid calves, though they are expecting many barriers and hurdles throughout the process.
The research community is divided on how the mammoth hybrids will affect the Arctic.
While the project is hoping that this will allow Asian elephants—which are threatened by extinction—to survive better in cold environments, researchers are also focused on how the re-introduction of a mammoth would affect the Arctic tundra’s ecosystem.
Church believes that they could provide a solution to slow the rapid warming of the tundra by knocking down trees and converting the tundra back into grassland.
Other researchers are worried about unintended consequences and the ethical questions involved.