January 18, 2013
Cloning Neanderthal May Be Possible Soon
|With the help of synthetic biology,it may be possible to create a Neanderthal clone, American geneticist George Church told der SPIEGEL. Church suggests the surrogate mother would need to be "an adventurous female person."|
George Church, a Harvard geneticist recently told Der Spiegel he's close to developing the necessary technology to clone a Neanderthal, at which point all he'd need is an "adventurous human woman" — einen abenteuerlustigen weiblichen Menschen — to act as a surrogate mother.
At the time the initial Neanderthal genome was sequenced, it was suggested that the species did not die out from competition with Homo sapiens, rather the two species inter-bred and the Neanderthal line was absorbed by modern humans. Genetic testing revealed that European decedents, particularly from those around the Tuscany area, shared as much as 4% genetic material with Neanderthals, while modern Africans have virtually none.
These results are once again up for debate, as new research causes doubt for the inter-breeding hypothesis. At any rate, as has been shown with other cross-species surrogate births, the ability for a human mother to carry a Neanderthal baby to term is not entirely out of the question.
According to a 2008 study of a Neanderthal infant skeleton, "the head of the Neanderthal newborn was somewhat longer than that of a human newborn because of its relatively robust face," and Neanderthal women generally had a wider birth canal than human women. Neanderthal birth was simpler than human birth, because Neanderthal infants didn't have to rotate to get to the birth canal, but otherwise the processes were very similar, however it would most probably entail a C-section delivery.
For some reason, Church seems to think that there'll be a Neanderthal craze, as he told Bloomberg Businessweek last year:
"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."
SOURCE Source: Gawker, MIT Technology Review Top Image: Nikola Solic/Reuters
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