With their enormous shaggy torsos and long curved tusks, the imposing creatures last walked on earth during the Ice Age.
Fast forward thousands of years and the woolly mammoth may once again make an appearance on this planet – after Japanese scientists claim to have taken a “significant step” towards bringing the long-extinct animals back to life.
Researchers extracted bone marrow and muscle tissue from the remains of a mammoth named Yuka, who has lain frozen in Siberian permafrost for more than 28,000 years.
As a first step, the team, from Kindai University in Osaka, confirmed the authenticity of Yuka’s extracted tissue samples using whole-genome sequencing techniques.
Scientists then injected cell nuclei from the extinct woolly mammoth’s muscle tissue into mouse cell eggs – resulting in signs of biological activities, according to the study, published by Nature’s on-line journal Scientific Reports.
The biological activity detected in the mouse cell eggs included a type of structural formation that reportedly precedes cell division.
Kei Miyamoto, one of the authors, told the Nikkei that the findings marked a “significant step towards bringing mammoths back from the dead”.
Highlighting that they “still have a long way to go” before the species returns to existence, he added: “We want to move our study forward to the stage of cell division.”