contents
Your weekly briefing on the state of 
humanity
SEE ALL ISSUES
EDITOR'S LETTER
A second third way?
NEWS FEATURE 1
How WannaCry took the world by storm
NEWS FEATURE 2
China pushes ahead with ambitious One Belt, One Road project
DIGEST AMERICAS
Who stands against narco violence in Mexico?
DIGEST EUROPE
Merkel takes a giant step towards a fourth term as chancellor
DIGEST EUROPE
In Berlin, Macron tests the waters for his European shake-up
DIGEST EUROPE
Ukraine takes its fight with Russia to social media
DIGEST ASIA-PACIFIC
North Korea inches closer to striking the US mainland
DIGEST AFRICA
Mass jailbreak frees Christian separatist leader in Kinshasa
DIGEST AFRICA
Tunisia: Protests return to the cradle of the Arab Spring
DIGEST MIDDLE EAST
Sesame science: A unifying force in the divided Middle East
DIGEST MIDDLE EAST
The high stakes of Iran’s presidential election
DIGEST MIDDLE EAST
Cholera deaths highlight Yemen’s plight
THE PICTURE
Praying with fire
GOOD NEWS
Brazil declares end of Zika public health emergency
Big Data platform to help farmers weather harsh climates
THE  INFOGRAPHIC
The cost of hacking
IN SCIENCE
3D printer creates ‘bionic skin’
IN MEDICINE
Did a stroke of bad luck put an end to the dinosaurs?
IN TECHNOLOGY
Are ‘Internet abortions’ safe?
www.theguardian.com
In limbo in Melilla: the young refugees trapped in Spain's African enclave
www.aljazeera.com
Connecting Iquitos: Building a road through the Amazon
www.theatlantic.com
Richard Spencer Was My High-School Classmate

De-extinction: Not such a mammoth task?

Genetics
See 23 more
Could woolly mammoths one day once again roam the earth?
The Print Collector/Getty Images
Could woolly mammoths one day once again roam the earth?
W hen Jurassic Park captured audiences’ imaginations back in 1993, the prospect of resurrecting long dead species seemed an impossible fantasy. You’re still unlikely to be chasing velociraptors away from your vegetable patch any time soon, but we could see woolly mammoths make a comeback… of sorts.
The discovery of a well-preserved woolly mammoth specimen back in 2014 raised the possibility of creating a clone of the long extinct behemoth, a prospect beleaguered by ethical concerns. The Harvard team leading the de-extinction effort is now aiming to make an elephant-mammoth hybrid, and announced this week that a ‘mammophant’ embryo could be created within two years.
Using the gene-editing tool Crispr, the team is already making ‘edits’ to the genome of individual Asian elephant cells, while also evaluating which alterations were necessary for woolly mammoths to withstand the cold. “We already know about ones to do with small ears, subcutaneous fat, hair and blood, but there are others that seem to be positively selected,” said team leader George Church.
The project is still a long way off of creating a living mammophant, but birthing a hybrid animal could be achieved via an artificial womb, bypassing ethical concerns about experimenting on elephant surrogates and forcing them into difficult pregnancies. In fact, genetic editing could be good news for Asian elephants: one of the aims of the project is to produce an alternative future for the endangered species.
The other aim is perhaps more surprising: to help combat climate change. The mammophants could keep the tundra permafrost from melting, preventing the release of greenhouse gasses trapped underneath. “They keep the tundra from thawing by punching through snow and allowing cold air to come in,” said Professor Church. “In the summer they knock down trees and help the grass grow.”
As a report in Nature Climate Change this week outlined the extent to which global warming is threatening endangered species, it would be a strange turn of event for mammoths to return from the dead to help save the environment. Perhaps Jeff Goldblum was right: “Life, uh, finds a way.”
Tim Cross
The World Weekly
16 February 2017 - last edited 16 February 2017