A number of bitcoin billionaires and a genetics professor want to bring back the woolly mammoths in order to reverse climate change. Stop me if this sounds like the plot of a blockbuster science fiction movie.
Per Fortune, Harvard genetics professor George Church has the idea that bringing back the woolly mammoths would “help reverse climate change by restoring the plant root systems where the mammoths graze and thereby pull more carbon from the atmosphere.”
A startup called Colossal has pledged to help with the project. Church will work with entrepreneur Ben Lamm as well as with billionaires Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss of Winklevoss Capital, Tim Draper of Draper Associates, Peter Diamandis of Bold Capital, and Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital. Oh, yeah, author Tony Robbins is also a big investor in the project.
Cameron Winklevoss, known for his role with Facebook’s early days and for becoming a new cryptocurrency investor, supports the project because it’s addressing a massive problem.
“I see Colossal as an opportunity to futureproof the environment and species,” he told Fortune. “They’re trying to solve an important problem — not just how to bring back extinct animals, but how to preserve the genetic record of threatened species, of which there is a large number. That could be a game changer.”
The project would create an “ecosystem that can maintain its own defenses against climate change,” the website said.
So, is it possible? According to NPR, the scientists want to use a tool called CRISPR-Cas9 to take DNA from a frozen mammoth and inject it into an Asian elephant, according to NPR. The new animal — called a “mammophant” would then behave like a wooly mammoth.
That said, experts remain unsure if this will actually bring about change for the climate. And scientists told NPR the project might be better off saving nearly extinct species instead of bringing back dead ones.
“I can see some reasons to do the first steps where you are tinkering with cell lines and editing the genomes,” Love Dalén, a professor in evolutionary genetics at the Stockholm-based Centre for Palaeogenetics, told NPR. “I think there is a lot of technological development that can be done (and) we can learn a lot about how to edit genomes, and that could be really useful for endangered species today.”