Discovery of living mammoth cells claimed

Sept. 12, 2012 at 5:51 PM
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YAKUTSK, Russia, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Researchers with an expedition in Russia's northeastern republic of Yakutia say they've found the "living cells" of a mammoth frozen in permafrost.

"In a unique area at the depth of about 100 meters (330 feet) we discovered some rich material for research -- soft and adipose tissues, fur and bone marrow of a mammoth," expedition leader Semyon Grigoryev told a meeting at a university in the region's capital city, Yakutsk.

The discovery has attracted the attention of controversial South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk, who has already announced his intention to clone a woolly baby mammoth from a specimen discovered in permafrost on the coast of the Laptev Sea last year, RIA Novosti reported Tuesday.

Hwang, the leader of Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, was hailed as a national hero in South Korea until some of his research on human embryos was declared fraudulent in 2006.

He received a suspended jail term in 2009 for embezzlement and accepting millions of dollars in grants under fraudulent circumstances.

Responding to the reports of the latest discovery, experts from the Institute of Paleontology of the Russian Academy of Sciences said the discovery of living mammoth cells is unlikely.

"The cell structure with nucleus can be preserved [only] under special conditions in deep-freeze," Alexander Agadzhanyan, the chief of the Institute's mammal laboratory, said.

Cells needed a stable exchange with the environment to stay alive, he said.

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