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Woolly Mammoth Blood

October 20, 2011

A replica of woolly mammoth blood protein may lead to treatments for hypothermia and improvements in surgery.



Woolly mammoth antifreeze.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In some surgeries and medical emergencies, lowering a patient’s body temperature can protect against organ damage.  But it’s also risky. To reduce those risks, Carnegie Mellon University biologist Chien Ho and his colleagues are studying the extinct woolly mammoth, a mammal that thrived in frigid climates. In their latest experiment, they reconstructed mammoth hemoglobin. Ho says mammoth hemoglobin differs only slightly from that of its close warm-climate relative, the Asian elephant.

CHIEN HO (Carnegie Mellon University):

And we also compared the functional properties of human hemoglobin, Asian elephant, and mammoth hemoglobin.


They found that the mammoth hemoglobin was much less sensitive to cold in an important respect: its ability to deliver oxygen to tissues. It’s hoped that the findings could lead to artificial blood products that get human patients through accidental or medically necessary chills.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.