1 Tahrcountry Musings: Mammoths and their Anti-freeze Blood

Monday, May 03, 2010

Mammoths and their Anti-freeze Blood

Under usual circumstances the ability of haemoglobin to release oxygen to the body's tissues is inhibited by the cold. A team of Scientists from University of Manitoba, University of Adelaide, Yokohama City University, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Aarhus,.Harvard Medical School, and University of York have found that Mammoths possessed a genetic adaptation allowing their haemoglobin to release oxygen into the body even at low temperatures.
How they discovered the anti freeze properties of Mammoth blood reads like science fiction. The researchers sequenced haemoglobin genes from the DNA of three Siberian mammoths, preserved in the permafrost. These DNA sequences were converted into RNA and inserted into E. coli bacteria. The bacteria manufactured the mammoth protein to a T. This is akin to going back in time and taking a blood sample from a real mammoth. Scientists found that three distinctive changes in the haemoglobin sequence allowed mammoth blood to deliver oxygen to cells even at very low temperatures. This is something the haemoglobin in living elephants cannot do. Amazing piece of research indeed.

Details appear in the journal Nature Genetics

Nature Genetics /DOI: doi:10.1038/ng.574/Published online 02 May 2010

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