A Russian state lab has announced that it is investigating prehistoric viruses by analyzing the remains of animals extracted from molten permafrost.
The Vektor research institute in Koltsovo, near the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, said in a statement that the aim of the project was to identify ancient, extinct viruses and to conduct advanced research into the evolution of the viruses.
Currently, the researchers, in collaboration with Yakutsk State University, are analyzing tissues from a prehistoric horse that is estimated to be at least 4,500 years old.
According to the research center, the remains were discovered in 2009 in Yakutia, a vast Siberian region in Russia’s far east where remains of Paleolithic animals, including mammoths, are regularly discovered.
In addition to the prehistoric horse, the researchers also plan to investigate the remains of mammoths, moose, dogs, partridges, rodents, hares, and other prehistoric animals. Moscow Times.
Maxim Cheprasov, head of the laboratory at the Mammoth Museum at the University of Yakutsk, said in a press release that bacterial studies had already been conducted on the recovered animals. “We are now conducting a study of paleoviruses for the first time,” he added.
The Vektor research institute was founded in the midst of the Cold War in 1974 as a closed institute. Research was conducted on vaccines and on means of protecting the country from bacteriological and biological weapons. Now deadly viruses such as Ebola and HIV are stored and it is also one of two facilities in the world that has the smallpox virus in its collection.
In 2019, a fire broke out in the center when a gas cylinder exploded during renovation works on the fifth floor. But according to the Russian Health Service, there were no biologically hazardous substances on the floor of the fire at the time.