Akira Iritani, a professor at Kyoto University, says he wants to resurrect the species that died out 5,000 years ago by recovering nuclei from cells in the skin and muscle tissue of mammoths found in Siberian permafrost and inserting the nuclei into the egg cells of an African elephant, which will act as the surrogate mother for the mammoth, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.
Previous efforts in the 1990s to recover nuclei from Siberian mammoths failed because they had been too badly damaged by the extreme cold.
However, a technique pioneered at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, was successful in cloning a mouse from the cells of another mouse that had been frozen for 16 years.
"Now the technical problems have been overcome, all we need is a good sample of soft tissue from a frozen mammoth," Iritani says.
Iritani said he estimates that another two years will be needed before nuclei can be obtained and the elephant impregnated, followed by the approximately 600-day gestation period.
"The success rate in the cloning of cattle was poor until recently but now stands at about 30 percent," Iritani said. "I think we have a reasonable chance of success and a healthy mammoth could be born in four or five years."