Scientists launch plan to resurrect extinct woolly mammoths in the Arctic
Woolly mammoths could roam the land once more as scientists embark on an ambitious project to bring them back to the Arctic tundra.
Researchers have spent years studying the possibility of recreating the giant beasts which went extinct 10,000 years ago amid a warming climate and widespread human hunting.
Now, bioscience and genetics company Colossal believes it can take on the task with an £11 million boost in funding and the first calves expected in six years.
Scientists hope to create a hybrid animal by growing embryos in the laboratory, putting skin cells from Asian elephants into stem cells with mammoth DNA.
Using advanced gene-editing technology, genomes would be taken from animals recovered from permafrost and a surrogate mother would carry the embryos.
Famous Harvard geneticist Professor George Church launched the new venture alongside startup founder Ben Lamm, most famous for planning to launch satellites to look for UFOs in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Prof Church said: “Our goal is to make a cold-resistant elephant, but it is going to look and behave like a mammoth.
“Not because we are trying to trick anybody, but because we want something that is functionally equivalent to the mammoth, that will enjoy its time at -40C, and do all the things that elephants and mammoths do.”
© Shutterstock mammoths140921.jpg
How will they do it?
Mammoth-specific genes are identified by comparing the genetics of frozen woolly mammoth specimens and Asian elephants.
Scientists will then edit the skin cells of Asian elephants so that they can carry the woolly mammoth genes.
An egg is created from stem cells in the lab and its nucleus is swapped with that from the skin cell containing mammoth DNA.
It is then stimulated so that it starts to divide and grow either in a surrogate elephant mother or even an artificial womb.
Technically speaking, this would not produce an actual woolly mammoth but a genetically engineered hybrid.
What is the goal?
The Woolly Mammoth Revival aims to bring back the extinct species so that healthy herds may one day re-populate vast tracts of tundra and boreal forest in Eurasia and North America.
The intent is not to make perfect copies of extinct woolly mammoths, but to focus on the mammoth adaptations needed for Asian elephants to thrive in the cold climate of the Arctic.
Over the last 800,000 years, the species was a significant part of the Arctic ecosystem until relatively recently, roaming across the grasslands of North America, Russia and Europe before going extinct.
Some scientists argue that the tundra ecosystem that arose in their absence is now affected by and contributing to human-driven climate change.
They say without large animals to compact and scrape away thick insulating layers of winter snow, extreme winter cold does not penetrate the soil.
However, not all experts support the plan.
Dr Victoria Herridge of the Natural History Museum said the project was “implausible”.
The researcher, who studies elephants, said: “There are a lot of questions raised by this project.
“The key ethical points are the aspects of animal experimentation and husbandry. What is this creature? Is it a new species? How many do you need?
“Then if they succeed, what will the needs be of an intelligent social creature? And what are our obligations to it?”
Reference: Evening Standard: Laura Sharman
Home computer pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair dies aged 81
Home computing pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair has died at the age of 81.
His daughter Belinda Sinclair told the Guardian that the pocket calculator trailblazer and the brains behind the Spectrum home computers died at his home in London on Thursday morning.
Sir Clive Sinclair launched the first affordable consumer computer in 1980, costing less than £100.
The multimillionaire entrepreneur’s company launched the ZX models in a decade where personal computer use boomed.
Sinclair became the first company in the world to sell more than a million computers, making Sir Clive’s surname a household word.
Ms Sinclair told the BBC that her father had cancer for more than a decade and was still working on inventions up until last week “because that was what he loved doing”.
“He was inventive and imaginative and for him it was exciting and an adventure, it was his passion,” she told the broadcaster.
Business mogul Lord Sugar paid tribute to his “good friend and competitor” on Twitter, writing: “What a guy he kicked started consumer electronics in the UK with his amplifier kits then calculators, watches mini TV and of course the Sinclair ZX. Not to forget his quirky electric car. R.I.P Friend.”
Speaking to the Guardian, Ms Sinclair said: “It was the ideas, the challenge, that he found exciting.
© PA Clive Sinclair was a pioneering entrepreneur (PA)
“He’d come up with an idea and say, ‘There’s no point in asking if someone wants it, because they can’t imagine it.’”
A man of diverse interests, Sir Clive’s projects also saw him explore new technology in the worlds of television and cars.
One ill-fated initiative was the Sinclair C5 vehicle, an electric tricycle heralded as the future of eco-friendly transport but which turned out to be an expensive flop.
Born in 1940, Sir Clive left school at the age of 17, becoming a technical journalist writing specialist manuals.
Aged 22, he formed Sinclair Radionics, his first company, making mail order radio kits, including the smallest transistor radio in the world.
Later in life he pioneered the pocket calculator and was dubbed an “electronics wizard”.
Other ventures included expansions into digital watches and the development of the world’s smallest television set.
It was with another company, Sinclair Research, that Sir Clive found his home computing successes as he faced off against international competition.
The ZX 81 computer launched in 1981 sold half a million and was followed up by more powerful models.
Film director Edgar Wright paid tribute to Sir Clive’s computing achievements on Twitter.
He tweeted: “For someone whose first glimpses of a brave new world were the terrifying graphics of 3D Monster Maze on the ZX81, I’d like to salute tech pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair.
“He made 21st Century dreams feel possible. Will bash away on the rubber keys of a Spectrum in your honour. RIP.”
Tom Watson, former deputy leader of the Labour Party, tweeted: “This man changed the course of my life.
“And arguably, the digital age for us in the UK started with the Sinclair ZX80, when thousands of kids learnt to code using 1k of RAM. For us, the Spectrum was like a Rolls Royce with 48k.”
Sir Clive was knighted in the birthday honours in 1983.
His daughter told the BBC that he was a devoted grandfather to her three children who had helped care for him in recent years.
Reference: By PA Reporter
Vera Fusek, actress who played the Earth President in Doctor Who – obituary
Has died aged 89, was an actress who became best known to aficionados of Doctor Who as the Earth President in the serial “Frontier in Space” (1973) opposite Jon Pertwee’s Doctor.
She began her career on stage when Sam Wanamaker cast her in the first English production of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge (1956, Comedy Theatre, Haymarket) with Richard Harris. The same year she played Anne Frank’s mother Edith in the Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett play The Diary of Anne Frank (Theatre Royal, Brighton and Phoenix Theatre, London).
But it was her role in Doctor Who, as the female leader of the world in the 26th century, that earned her cult status. For one scene she wore a sequinned gown so tight that she had to be sewn into it.
She was born Vera Vuseck on May 20 1932 in Prague. Her father was a member of the last democratic parliament before the communist coup, and in 1948 the family fled the country disguised as tourists, eventually arriving in Britain as refugees. Vera had left Czechoslovakia two years before for a finishing school in Switzerland.
She went on to win a place at Rada and in 1955 set sail for New York, hoping to make her name on Broadway, but as she recalled in 2016: “It was the height of the Red Menace – anyone with an accent was feared to be a communist.”
Instead, she hit the road and toured with the ballet dancer-turned-actor Erie Hall in Shakespeare plays, including appearances as Ferdinand and Miranda in The Tempest. She also appeared in an off-Broadway play directed by Peter Ustinov, but by 1956 she was back in London.
© Reg Warhurst/ANL/Shutterstock Vera Fusek in 1958 - Reg Warhurst/ANL/Shutterstock
There she found success on television, first with Douglas Fairbanks Jr in The Man Who Wouldn’t Escape, co-starring Christopher Lee. She also appeared in BBC Sunday-Night Theatre productions including Fritz Hochwalder’s The Fugitive (1956), though a critic described her performance as “dreary”.
She fared better the same year as Marie Antoinette in The Magnificent Egotist, featuring Fenella Fielding as a prostitute, and opposite Merle Oberon in The Search.
Towards the end of that decade Vera Fusek’s name began to feature in the tabloids, one columnist describing her as a “party-loving actress with a penchant for the Harrods fur department”. Another described an encounter with a policeman in Eastbourne whom she had injured in an altercation behind the wheel of her 1932 Austin Morris.
She also claimed to have been propositioned in a lift by Salvador Dali: “He said I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen – I was one of hundreds he’d given that line to.”
On the big screen she played the female lead in Escape in the Sun (1956), a low-budget jungle adventure which had her riding a one-eyed rhinoceros escaping from an asthmatic lion. In 1959 she was in the crime drama Great Van Robbery, and in 1960 she had a minor role in Five Branded Women. The same year she played an American film star in an episode of the television series The Four Just Men.
In 1964 she married Frederick Maxwell, an American geologist, with whom she had two sons. Frederick, who suffered from depression, committed suicide when the boys were still young, and in 1967 Vera returned to London from Germany, where they had been living.
As well as her role on Doctor Who, she appeared in Mike Pritchard’s Treasures of the Snow (1980), but by the early 1980s she had retired.
In her sixties Vera Fusek found happiness with her companion Rudy. She moved to Alaska and earned two degrees from the Open University. She returned to England after being diagnosed with dementia.
One of her two sons predeceased her.
Vera Fusek, born May 20 1932, died August 8 2021
Reference: Telegraph: Telegraph Obituaries
X Factor singer Freddie Combs dies aged 49 from kidney failure
The X Factor US contestant Freddie Combs has sadly died at the age of 49 from kidney failure.
The singer became a star from Simon Cowell’s US edition of the talent competition, where he wowed the judges with his dulcet tones on the huge stage.
Freddie died at a hospital in Florida according to US publication TMZ.
He was surrounded by his family and friends. The singer’s wife Kay paid tribute to her beloved husband as she told the website that she is so thankful to have had 25 years with Freddie.
"I have so much gratitude to be his wife for 25 years and to be his best friend,” Kay said, but unfortunately said she’d known he was going to pass the day before he actually did.
The X Factor contestant had been fighting to lose all of his excess weight for the last 11 years, after reaching 64 stone at his peak.
© getty THE X FACTOR: Contestant Eddie Combs performs in front of the judges on an all new episode of THE X FACTOR airing Thursday, September 27, 2012 (8:00-9:00PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by FOX
But the star managed to turn his life around and ended up losing 37 stone in total.
Freddie had also devoted his life to being a minister, but when he belted out Wind Beneath My Wings on The X Factor he was an instant favourite with viewers.
Simon and fellow judge L.A. Reid told Freddie at the time that they would support him on his journey if he promised them he’d lose weight and get out of his wheelchair.
Despite his determination to do just that, the contestant was knocked out of the competition shortly after.
Freddie, who was originally from the state of North Carolina, opened up on his struggles before his audition.
"I was bedridden and never came out of the house," he said in a prerecorded interview. "My music was never heard.
"My biggest dream would be to give hope to people who are my size. I hope the judges will look past my exterior and give a fat boy a chance."
After his powerful audition, Simon had told him: "I don't believe you deserve to be stuck in this chair. I'll back you if you back yourself."
Britney Spears, a judge at the time, also praised the contestant for his "shockingly amazing" voice.
Reference: OK :Roxanne Hughes
Michael Constantine dies aged 94
Michael Constantine has died aged 94.
The 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' star - well-known for playing Gus Portokalos in the 2002 romantic-comedy movie - passed away on August 31st at his home in Reading, Pennsylvania.
According to The New York Times, Constantine's agent Julia Buchwald said he died from natural causes.
Constantine won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1970, for his portrayal of high school principal Seymour Kaufman on ABC comedy-drama 'Room 222'.
And the late star was also awarded for his role in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'.
© Bang Showbiz Michael Constantine
He scooped a Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, and he was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Teen Choice Award for the part.
Constantine reprised the role of Toula Portokalos' father in 2016 sequel 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2', and he played the part in short-lived TV series 'My Big Fat Greek Life'.
Nia Vardalos, who portrayed Toula, paid tribute to her late co-star.
She wrote on Twitter: "Michael Constantine, the dad to our cast-family, a gift to the written word, and always a friend. Acting with him came with a rush of love and fun. I will treasure this man who brought Gus to life. He gave us so much laughter and deserves a rest now. We love you Michael (sic)"
Constantine appeared in several other TV shows, including 1976 sitcom 'Sirota's Court', for which he received a Golden Globe nomination, and the likes of 'Remington Steele', 'Murder, She Wrote' and 'Law & Order'.
Reference: Bang Showbiz
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