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article imageScientists hope to clone a 40,000-year-old extinct horse

By Karen Graham     Sep 5, 2018 in Science
Scientists are attempting to extract cells from a 40,000-year-old horse in hopes of using the sample to clone the extinct species back into existence. If successful, it would mark an important milestone towards the goal of resurrecting the woolly mammoth.
The frozen male foal of an extinct horse that lived 30,000 to 40,000 years ago was found in the Batagaika crater in the East Siberian taiga in the Sakha Republic in Russia a few weeks ago, according to The Siberian Times.
The Batagaika crater is a thermokarst depression or crater that began to form after a forest was cleared in preparation for a road that was to be built in the region. With the removal of the trees that protected the ground from the sun's rays, the barren ground began warming, which in turn led to the permafrost layers thawing, according to Digital Journal in 2017.
Batagaika Crater from the air
Batagaika Crater from the air
Juiian Murton/Cambridge University
Researchers believe the exposed ice and soil along the crater’s edges could hold up to 200,000 years of geological and biological history. The crater has disgorged a number of long-buried forests, the remains of mammoths, a musk ox, pollen grains, wolves, cave lions and a Bison priscus (prehistoric steppe bison).
Finding the Lena horse
Now scientists have a perfectly preserved foal about twenty days old of Equus lenensis (a Pleistocene horse). The baby horse is so well preserved that the skin, the hooves, the tail and even the tiny hairs in the animal's nostrils and around its hooves are still visible, reports Live Science.
Paleontologists found the mummified body of the young horse inside the 328-foot-deep (100 meters) crater, about 30 meters or a little more than 100 feet down from the top rim.
According to Semyon Grigoriev, the head of the Mammoth Museum in Yakutsk, it was thanks to the astonishing conservation power of the permafrost from the “Mouth of Hell," as locals call the Batagaika Crater, that led researchers to recover muscle tissues from the animal.
In order to clone the animal, a living cell is needed, and that involves a "cell culture." Cell culture refers to cells from the animal that have been removed and then grown in an artificial environment. Primary culture refers to the stage after the cells are isolated from the tissue and proliferated under the appropriate conditions until they occupy all the available substrate.
"Fortunately, the animal's muscle tissues were undamaged and well preserved, so we managed to get samples of this unique find for biotechnology research," Grigoriev said. Professor Hwang Woo-Suk, a stem cell and cloning researcher from South Korea is now working on a project to retrieve a living cell to use in possibly cloning the extinct horse.
Scientists at Revive & Restore are working to bring the woolly mammoth back from extinction by injec...
Scientists at Revive & Restore are working to bring the woolly mammoth back from extinction by injecting woolly mammoth cells into elephants.
Royal BC Museum, Victoria, BC / Rob Pongsajapan
"If we manage to find a cell, then we will do our best to clone the unique animal," the professor told the Siberian Times. "We are trying to make a primary culture using this baby horse, which was discovered a few weeks ago. If we get live cells from this ancient baby horse, it is a wonderful promise to people in terms of cloning."
Hwang told the Times that modern-day horses are "very close with the ancient one," so there would be no problem getting a "very good choice of eggs" from a modern-day female horse. "If we manage to clone the horse – it will be the first step to cloning the mammoth," Hwang said.
More about Cloning, Equus caballus lenensis, Permafrost, Eastern Siberia, Batagaika crater
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