Scientists in Russia are preparing to clone a 42,000-year-old horse. The perfectly preserved baby horse was discovered last year in the Batagaika Crater in eastern Siberia.
The incredible discovery also contained an unexpected surprise. Upon autopsy the horse was found to contain liquid blood; the oldest blood ever recorded.
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Usually, blood coagulates or turns to powder as the liquids inside it ages. The liquid blood found in the horse's heart means there is the possibility of cloning the foal. But it won't be easy.
First, the scientists led by Semyon Grigoriev, the head of the Mammoth Museum at North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk will need to determine if the blood contains viable cells.
Wooly mammoth rises
The same research group has been trying to clone a 32,200-year-old woolly mammoth that was found in excellently preserved condition last year. Despite also containing liquid blood efforts to clone the cells have so far failed.
The baby horse is a Lena foal (Equus caballus lenensis).
Dubbed buttercup by its caretakers it is thought to have died after getting stuck in the mud when it was 2 months old.
The mud then froze around the 98-centimeter high foal encasing it in frozen material for millennia. Its icy death bed preserved the animal down to the most minute detail including having a tiny amount of urine in its bladder.
Russian teams up South Korea
To clone the animals the scientist need to look for DNA in good enough condition to begin the process. DNA quickly degrades after death even when an animal is well preserved like Buttercup.
The research team has been trying for two months now to extract. They will continue to try and extract workable cells from the frozen foal both at their lab in Russia and at the lab of their collaborators the infamous Hwang Woo-suk. Woo-suk was found guilty of faking research results related to human stem cell cloning in 2005.
Since then the South Korean based scientist has been most known for cloning pet dogs for rich clients. If they can extract the cells they may be able to use a modern-day horse as a surrogate for the cloned animal. Or if finding viable cells in the carcass of the woolly mammoth comes to fruition the scientist has proposed using an elephant as the clones surrogate mother.
But even if the cells can't be cloned the opportunity to examine the ancient horses preserved urine, gut contents, and organs, will provide new insights into ice-age organisms.
The soil and paleo plants preserved close to the foal will also be studied for new information about the area and its evolution. Sergov and Woo-suk's research into the bringing ice age animals back to life has been documented in the recent documentary Genesis 2.0.