(CNN) — Remember when woolly mammoths roamed the planet? No? Well don’t worry if you missed the last ice age — scientists have moved one step closer to possibly bringing the beasts back to life with the discovery of liquid blood in a well-preserved mammoth carcass in Siberia.
Researchers from the Northeast Federal University in Yakutsk found the 10,000-year-old female mammoth buried in ice on the Lyakhovsky Islands off the coast of northeast Russia.
Scientists say they poked the frozen creature with a pick and dark liquid blood flowed out.
“The fragments of muscle tissues, which we’ve found out of the body, have a natural red color of fresh meat. The reason for such preservation is that the lower part of the body was underlying in pure ice,” said Semyon Grigoriev, the head of the expedition and of the university’s Mammoth Museum, in a statement on the university’s website.
“The blood is very dark, it was found in ice cavities below the belly and when we broke these cavities with a poll pick, the blood came running out,” he said. “Interestingly, the temperature at the time of excavation was -7 to -10ºC. It may be assumed that the blood of mammoths had some cryoprotective properties.”
Cryoprotectant is a substance found in modern fish and amphibians living in the Arctic and Antarctic that minimizes the damage to the creatures’ tissue in freezing temperatures.
Grigoriev told The Siberian Times newspaper it was the first time mammoth blood had been discovered and called it “the best preserved mammoth in the history of paleontology.”
“We suppose that the mammoth fell into water or got bogged down in a swamp, could not free herself and died. Due to this fact the lower part of the body, including the lower jaw, and tongue tissue, was preserved very well,” he said.
Grigoriev called the liquid blood “priceless material” for the university’s joint project with South Korean scientists who are hoping to clone a woolly mammoth, which has been extinct for thousands of years.
The controversial Sooam Biotech Research Foundation is headed up by Hwang Woo-suk — the disgraced former Seoul National University scientist who claimed in 2004 that he had successfully cloned human embryonic stem cells before admitting he had faked his findings.
Hwang, who also cloned the world’s first puppy, was forced to admit he had fabricated the stem cell data and apologized in January 2006 after a panel of scientists found he had not derived human stem cells from eggs, as he claimed.
A one-hour documentary about the joint Russia-South Korean quest to clone a mammoth from the creature’s remains aired on the National Geographic Channel in the U.S. in April.
Grigoriev says the mammoth carcass has not been moved yet for fear of damaging it — and that his team will join foreign researches in Siberia for further research in July.