The blood from woolly mammoths is helping scientists develop new blood products for modern medical procedures that involve reducing patients' body temperature, according to reports.
A study that's in American Chemical Society's journal Biochemistry states that woolly mammoth ancestors originally evolved in warm climates that now provides a home for African and Asian elephants. However, they migrated to the cold regions of Eurasia 1.2 million to 2.0 million years ago in the Pleistocene ice age.
Mammoths are those extinct elephant-like creatures that roamed the Earth in pre-historic times.
After migrating to the cold regions, woolly mammoths then adapted to their new environment by growing thick, woolly fur and smaller ears, which helped conserve heat, and possibly by changing their DNA, a press release from the society states.
In previous research, scientist Chien Ho and colleagues discovered that a blood protein (hemoglobin) that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body in the woolly mammoth has mutations in its DNA. These mutations make it different from that of its cousin, the Asian elephant.
The scientists have since carefully analyzed hemoglobin from the ancient animal by looking to the mutations that helped woolly mammoths survive freezing temperatures.
The scientists didn't have a woolly mammoth blood sample, and so they made the hemoglobin protein in the laboratory by using fragmented DNA sequences from three mammoths that died in Siberia between 25,000 and 43,000 years ago, the release states.
They found that the woolly mammoth protein was much less sensitive to temperature changes mammoths when compared to hemoglobin from Asian elephants and humans. This means it can still easily unload oxygen to tissues that need it in the cold, whereas the other hemoglobins can't.
Scientists believe this is likely because of at least two of the mutations in the woolly mammoth hemoglobin gene. They also believe these insights could lead to the design of new artificial blood products for use in hypothermia induced during heart and brain surgeries.