OK, so science isn’t to the point of genetically engineering a living, breathing Neanderthal baby quite yet. But Harvard geneticist George Church told German site Der Spiegel that they’re getting there, and that when the time comes they’ll need an “adventurous human woman” to be the surrogate.
Scientists reconstructed the Neanderthal genome back in 2009, and in that same year an extinct type of ibex was cloned from a frozen skin sample, though it did die immediately after. So it seems possible that a Neanderthal infant could, eventually, be cloned, though it would need a homo sapiens mother to carry and give birth to it.
According to [Der Spiegel,] Church is currently developing technology in his lab that can be used to make human cells similar to those of Neandertals. Eventually, an “adventurous female human” needs to be found as a surrogate mother for the first Neandertal baby, Church is cited as saying, and, from many individuals, “a kind of Neandertal culture” could arise that could gain “political significance.”
Church doesn’t understand “why many people should be so profoundly upset by these kinds of technologies,” since the concept of biological species is currently changing anyway. Up until now, the notion has been that people cannot exchange DNA with other biological species. “But this barrier will fall,” he says.
Show of hands: Who thinks Church’s quotes here make this whole experiment sound vaguely dystopian in nature? Ian Malcolm’s quote from Jurassic Park springs to mind: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Granted, I don’t actually think that if a Neanderthal baby were cloned it would lead to a scenario in which modern humans and our lesser-evolved brethren had to fight each other to the death for control of planet Earth. All the same. I don’t think I’ll be volunteering.