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Wanted: Surrogate for Neanderthal Baby

GenomeWeb caught what must be an interesting Q&A with George Church in Germany’s Spiegel Online (I can’t personally attest to the original story as it is behind a paywall). The Harvard Medical School geneticist is quoted as saying that eventually, an “adventurous female human” will be needed to be the surrogate mother for the first Neanderthal baby in some 30,000 years.

This isn’t the first time Church has talked publically about cloning a Neanderthal, or at least a near-Neanderthal. In 2009, when the Neanderthal genome was first reported, the New York Times described a scenario in which a current day human genome could be tweaked into the “Neanderthal equivalent” with tools of molecular biology. Eventually, this could lead to a Neanderthal-like embryo in need of a surrogate mother.

While the idea of reviving Neanderthals may sound farfetched, take for example the work of biologists to clone endangered or extinct non-human animals (see “Stem-Cell Engineering Offers a Lifeline to Endangered Species”). In 2009, the extinct bucardo, a subspecies Spanish ibex, was cloned from a frozen skin sample. The newborn died immediately due to respiratory failure, but its birth suggests that resurrecting extinct species may be possible.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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