Ars on your lunch break, part three: Woolly mammoths and synthetic meat
Today we present the third and final installment of my interview with George Church, whose Harvard lab is one of the most celebrated fountains of innovation in the world of life science. Please check out part one and part two if you missed them. The article accompanying part one will also give you the lowdown on this experimental melding of Ars Technica’s written pages with a long-form podcast series.
We start today’s installment by discussing an audacious project to resurrect the wooly mammoth—or at least certain genes of it, which allowed it to thrive in frigid regions. The modern Asian elephant is a close cousin to the mammoth, and infusing those genes into its genome could give us a hybrid “arctic elephant.” Such a critter could play a key role in preserving the integrity of the permafrost layer, which currently fixes more CO2 than all of the world’s rainforests combined.
From mammoths, George and I turn to the topic of synthetic meats, which could enter our kitchens and bellies much sooner than most people think. A top company in this field (Memphis Meats) is building on work that originated in George’s lab. Its financial, ethical, and environmental ramifications could be immense.