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Can It Be Done?

Woolly mammoths once roamed the world, and there's been talk lately about the possibility of bringing these and other extinct organisms back to life — Scientific American's David Biello asks whether such a feat is even possible.

It's already happened, he notes, albeit briefly. In 2003, a clone of the last Iberian ibex — which died a few years prior — was born, though it only lived for a few minutes because of lung defect.

As for the mammoth, Biello writes that Harvard's George Church is currently modifying genes from an Asian elephant to make them more mammoth-like.

"Asian elephants are closer to mammoths than either is to African elephants, yet quite different in appearance and temperature range," Church says. "We are not trying to make an exact copy of a mammoth, but rather a cold-resistant elephant."

Biello adds that technologies enabling de-extinction might also help prevent extinctions in the first place.