Dolly the Sheep caused enough controversy, but the difference in cloning animals and Homo sapiens is profound.
So how would you feel about cloning a Neanderthal?
Geneticist George Church from Harvard Medical School says that far from this being a work of fiction, it is possible to clone a Neanderthal and bring the extinct species back into the world after more than 30,000 years.
Speaking to publication Der Spiegel, Church says that the only piece left of the puzzle is a willing, “adventurous” woman to bring such a child to term.
The 58-year old explained to the publication that due to advances in genetic engineering and research, it is “quite possible,” and he has already managed to extract enough DNA from fossilized bones to recreate a fully-fledged member of the species. This data is being used within his lab to gradually alter modern human cells.
Church does not understand why so many people feel “hurt” by genetic engineering, and believes that eventually, the political and social barriers to using this kind of technology will fall.
“I am 3.8 percent Neanderthal,” said Church, who has had his own genome sequenced. “One of my ancestors mated with a Neanderthal, and I am not embarrassed by that.”
Whether the creation of a Neanderthal child will happen during Church’s career or not remains to be seen, but as The Verge notes, such an experiment may provide a unique insight into our own evolution. During an interview with Bloomberg last year, the geneticist commented:
“We have lots of Neanderthal parts around the lab. We are creating Neanderthal cells. Let’s say someone has a healthy, normal Neanderthal baby. Well, then, everyone will want to have a Neanderthal kid. Were they superstrong or supersmart? Who knows? But there’s one way to find out.”
(via The Verge)
Photo Credit: Ryan Somma