An international research team has discovered that they can obtain good DNA samples from the shafts of mammoth hair. Apparently keratin, the protein out of which hair is made, acts as a kind of plastic, preserving the DNA from contamination by marauding bacteria. The research could help scientists figure out why the mammoths went extinct at the end of the last ice age, and the technique could be applied to samples from other species that went extinct in relatively recent times, even samples that have been tucked away in museum drawers for decades. (Via National Geographic News; tip from The Walrus Said.)
Of course, what everyone really wants to know is, can we use this DNA to bring woolly mammoths back?
Short answer: maybe, but you won’t see them in Siberia’s nascent Pleistocene Park any time soon. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)
[tags]genetics, DNA, cloning, extinction[/tags]