Scientists ‘turning to woolly mammoth to develop artificial human blood’

Scientists have discovered how the blood of woolly mammoths may hold the key to developing new artificial blood products for humans – a finding that may be useful in hypothermia induced during heart and brain surgeries.

Chien Ho and colleagues note that woolly mammoth, which migrated to the cold regions of Eurasia 1.2 – 2 million years ago, adapted to their new environment by growing thick, ‘woolly’ fur and smaller ears, which helped conserve heat, and by changing their DNA.

As Ho and his mates didn’t have a woolly mammoth blood sample, they made hemoglobin protein in the laboratory by using fragmented DNA sequences from three mammoths that died in Siberia between 25,000 and 43,000 years ago.

After the research they found that the woolly mammoth protein was much less sensitive to temperature changes, which means it can still easily unload oxygen to tissues that need it in the cold, while other hemoglobins can’t.

The findings are published in ACS’ journal Biochemistry.

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