It’s the dream of kids all around the world to see giant beasts walk the Earth again. Could — and should — that dream be realized? Hendrik Poinar gives an informative talk on the next — really — big thing: The quest to engineer a creature that looks very much like our furry friend, the woolly mammoth. The first step, to sequence the woolly genome, is nearly complete. And it’s huge. (Filmed at TEDxDeExtinction.)
Hendrik Poinar is a geneticist and biological anthropologist who focuses on extracting ancient DNA. He currently has his sights set on sequencing the genome of the woolly mammoth — and cloning it.
As a child Hendrik Poinar never imagined that the insects his father kept around the house, extinct and preserved in amber, could someday be brought to life. Well that’s exactly what Poinar has devoted his career to doing. Today he is a molecular evolutionary geneticist and biological anthropologist at McMaster University in Ontario, where he is the principal investigator at the Ancient DNA Centre. Poinar’s focus is on extracting and preserving DNA from paleontological remains — precisely what he thought impossible as a kid.
And Poinar’s newest project is much, much bigger than those insects from his childhood: He wants to bring back the woolly mammoth. In 2006 he and his team started working on sequencing the mammoth genome, based on DNA extracted from well-preserved remains found in Yukon and Siberia. With the mapping nearly complete, Poinar will next turn to engineering an animal very closely resembling the woolly mammoth.