Vampires are old. Really old. Before-the-pyramids-of-Egypt-rose old, if you believe the lush and consuming works of Anne Rice (whose Vampire Chronicles books will be coming to life as a Hulu series) and other writers obsessed with the undead. The blood in their veins is fiction, but this blood is 42,000 years old — and real.
So the liquid blood found inside a foal mummified by the Siberian permafrost wasn’t exactly the doing of bloodsuckers who wanted a vampiric horse to ride by night. Seymon Grigoryev, head of the Mammoth Museum in Yakutsk, recently announced that the foal’s frozen burial resulted in some of its blood staying preserved in a liquid state tens of thousands of years later. This find is even more ancient than the blood of a mammoth extracted previously.
“We can now claim that this is the best preserved Ice Age animal ever found in the world,” Grigoryev told The Siberian Times. “This is extremely rare for paleontological finds, because some of them are either incomplete, fragmented, with serious body deformations or strongly mummified.”
In Rice’s universe, vampires can burn but never freeze, so this is freaky on some level. While no one has been bitten in the night, researchers found the unexpected when they performed an autopsy on the foal and realized that not all its blood had coagulated. Ancient animal mummies usually lose water in their blood from gradual evaporation that happens over eons.
The Pleistocene-era foal was only a week or two old when it died and breathed its last as it struggled in an overflow of mud. It showed evidence of liquid blood and urine — not to mention meticulously preserved tissues, and is even the first ancient horse specimen to be found with hair. Grigoryev and his team, in collaboration with scientists from South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, now want to use this animal’s blood to resurrect the extinct Lenskaya breed it belonged to.
That isn’t going to be so easy as movies — or vampires rising from their coffins — would make it seem.
Because red blood cells have no nuclei, they don’t contain DNA. Genetic material is kind of a prerequisite when you’re after cloning something like Grigoryev is. Intact muscle and organ cells have not been easy to find. He may have to take more of a hybridization approach like another group of scientists who are looking into creating a genetic mashup of an elephant and a woolly mammoth.
Bringing a type of horse back from the dead is one thing, but a mammoth could raise serious ethical questions. At least we’re not there yet.
(via The Siberian Times)