Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Mammoth task: U of M professor pens article on resurrecting ice-age DNA

  • Print

Winnipeg woolly mammoth fans rejoice. The newest issue of Scientific American features the work of a Winnipeg professor with a flair for the prehistoric beasts.

University of Manitoba professor Kevin Campbell, a pioneer in the field of paleophysiology, has published an article in the August 2012 issue of the magazine titled New Life for Ancient DNA.

Campbell, a professor of environmental and evolutionary physiology, co-wrote the article with Michael Hofreiter, a professor of biology at the University of York.

The article details the authors’ uses of biotechnology to recreate and study functional genes, such as blood protein hemoglobin, from the extinct woolly mammoth.

"Essentially we were able to resurrect an important ‘living’ cellular process in an extinct animal that hasn’t walked the Earth in many thousands of years and study it as if it were still alive," said Campbell.

"This work demonstrates that much of the physiology — or living attributes — of mammoths and other extinct ice-age animals may one day be recoverable."

Campbell said the resurrected mammoth blood showed the beasts could continue delivering oxygen to body tissues even in extreme cold, something human hemoglobin cannot do. The next step, the professor said, is determining how the mammoth was capable of this and to reverse-engineer human proteins to have the same abilities.

"For instance, certain new ‘hypothermia-dependent’ heart and brain surgeries require that doctors lower the patients’ body temperature. Hence, our work could facilitate the design of a medically relevant hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier for these types of procedures," he said. "Other genes we are now studying may become important targets for the development of pain medications."

Campbell said he is also helping Morden’s Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre to develop an ice-age exhibit that will display some of Campbell’s findings. He is vice-president of the centre’s board.

"This is still in the works. It’s in the conceptual planning stage. But what we’d like to do is develop it and since we have some of my work from the mammoth, we can display that as well," said Campbell.

Campbell grew up in Morden and his work in paleophysiology has been featured in the New York Times, BBC Nature, the London Daily Mail and the Toronto Star.

Campbell hopes the latest article will spread awareness on the ways science can help people and preserve history.

"When we do write these articles, we interest people," he said.

"To me that’s the greatest thing I can do in my job, just to show people the wonder of some of these animals and that more needs to be done, that we need to learn about these things."

katherine.dow@freepress.mb.ca

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Photo Store Gallery

  • A gosling stares near water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Weather standup. Sundog. Refraction of light through ice crystals which caused both the sun dog and and fog along McPhillips Road early Wednesday morning. 071205.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Now that the snow is mostly gone, what are your plans?

View Results

Ads by Google