A mammoth blunder about living cells

I saw this headline first:
Siberian Mammoth remains found to contain ‘live cells’
and did a double take.

It contained the obligatory references to cloning and “Jurassic Park” (mammoths did not exist at the time of dinosaurs). But the worst thing was the claim of  “living cells” as used.

The cells are not “living” if the organism is long dead. Obviously. So, what seemed to be meant here was viable cells that could be used for cloning. (The only cells living on that mammoth were the bacteria on it.)

Then, I saw all the fixing going on as the news outlets realized they jumped on a mistake. Yikes. Another science reporting mess.

Tip: Strange Times

This from the BBC:

A Russian-led expedition has found what it says are well preserved mammoth remains in Siberia but has downplayed reports that the material could be used to clone the ancient beast.

The skin and bone were recovered from a tunnel dug into the permafrost in the Ust-Yansk area of the Yakutia region on Russia’s Arctic coast.

The team hopes to find intact DNA that can be used to reproduce the creature.

But a member of the group told Reuters news agency this was doubtful.

“We are counting on our region’s permafrost to have kept some cells alive. But it is unlikely,” said Semyon Grigoryev, a professor at North-East Federal University (NEFU).

They did not correct what the scientist said. (“alive” versus “viable”)

Meanwhile, this discovery is now associated with controversial South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk who previously stated his intent to clone a mammoth – a process fraught with great difficulty.

See this story from back in February about mammoth find and Hwang.

  1 comment for “A mammoth blunder about living cells

  1. Massachusetts
    September 16, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    I know it’s super far fetched but I’m still hoping they clone these critters some day. Annoying, though, the way the press gets things wrong. Science 101 courses for all journalists should be required, and all they’d need to get most things right in their stories. They just don’t know, and don’t give a damn it seems.

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