The Russian state laboratory Vektor announced Tuesday that it would begin research into prehistoric viruses by analyzing the remains of animals extracted from molten permafrost.
The Siberia-based laboratory said in a statement that the goal of the project is to identify paleoviruses and conduct advanced research on virus development.
Research in collaboration with Yakutsk University began by analyzing tissues extracted from a prehistoric horse believed to be at least 4,500 years old.
According to Vektor, the remains were discovered in 2009 in Yakutia, a vast Siberian region where remains of Paleolithic animals including mammoths are regularly discovered.
The researchers said they would also examine the remains of mammoths, elk, dogs, partridges, rodents, rabbits and other prehistoric animals.
Maxim Cheprasov, head of the laboratory of the Mammoth Museum at Yakutsk University, said in a press release that the recovered animals had already been the subject of bacterial studies.
But he added: “This is the first time we are conducting studies on paleoviruses”.
The vector laboratory in the Novosibirsk region of Siberia, a former center for biological weapons development in the Soviet era, is one of only two facilities in the world where the smallpox virus is stored.
Vector has developed a vaccine against the coronavirus EpiVacCorona, which was approved in Russia in October and is expected to begin mass production later this month.
Scientists say the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average, endangering local wildlife, and releasing carbon stored in the melting permafrost.
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