Fiji Times Logo

Fiji Time: 7:51 AM on Sunday 24 August

/ Front page / Features

Search on for mum

News.Com.Au
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"I CAN create a neanderthal baby, if I can find a willing woman." No, it's not the world's worst pick-up line. It's science.

This incredible scenario is the plan of one of the world's leading geneticists, who is seeking a volunteer to help bring man's long-extinct close relative back to life.

Professor George Church of Harvard Medical School believes he can reconstruct Neanderthal DNA and resurrect the species which became extinct 33,000 years ago.

His scheme is reminiscent of Jurassic Park but, while in the film dinosaurs were created in a laboratory, Professor Church's ambitious plan requires a human volunteer.

He said his analysis of Neanderthal genetic code using samples from bones is complete enough to reconstruct their DNA.

He said: "Now I need an adventurous female human.

"It depends on a hell of a lot of things, but I think it can be done."

Professor Church's plan would begin by artificially creating Neanderthal DNA based on genetic code found in fossil remains. He would put this DNA into stem cells.

These would be injected into cells from a human embryo in the early stages of life.

It is thought that the stem cells would steer the development of the hybrid embryo on Neanderthal lines, rather than human ones.

After growing in the lab for a few days, the "neo-Neanderthal" embryo would be implanted in the womb of a surrogate mother — the volunteer.

Professor Church, 58, is a pioneer in synthetic biology who helped initiate the Human Genome Project that mapped our DNA.

He says Neanderthals were not the lumbering brutes of the stereotype, but highly intelligent. Their brains were roughly the same size as man's, and they made primitive tools.

He believes his project could benefit mankind.

He told German magazine Der Spiegel: "Neanderthals might think differently than we do. They could even be more intelligent than us.

"When the time comes to deal with an epidemic or getting off the planet, it's conceivable that their way of thinking could be beneficial."

Scientists say that his plan is theoretically possible, although in Britain, like most countries, human reproductive cloning is a criminal offence.

But Professor Church's proposal is so cutting-edge that it may not be covered by existing laws.

However, experts worry that neo-Neanderthals might lack the immunity to modern diseases to survive, and some fear that the process might lead to deformity.

There is also uncertainty over how they would fit into today's world. Bioethicist Bernard Rollin of Colorado State University said: "I don't think it's fair to put people... into a circumstance where they are going to be mocked and possibly feared."

In a scathing reaction, Philippa Taylor of the Christian Medical Fellowship said: "It is hard to know where to begin with the ethical and safety concerns."


Fiji Times Front Page Thumbnail

Kaila Front Page ThumbnailFiji Times & Kaila Frontpage PDF Downloads

Use the free Acrobat Reader to view.

Today's Most Read Stories

  1. It was not us, says headman
  2. 2 die in highway accident
  3. A-G in, Urai out
  4. 14 years in jail for rape
  5. Attack on 3 buses
  6. Family assured of justice
  7. Criminal inquiry
  8. Legal action against Fiji's Elections Supervisor
  9. Draw D-day
  10. 58pc in favour of a secular state

Top Stories this Week

  1. Dad's cry for justice Friday (22 Aug)
  2. The murder which shocked the nation Tuesday (19 Aug)
  3. Bag full of cash Monday (18 Aug)
  4. 12 go out Wednesday (20 Aug)
  5. Inquiry into video Wednesday (20 Aug)
  6. Why the GCC Monday (18 Aug)
  7. Chaudhry files 42 nominations for election Tuesday (19 Aug)
  8. State audit Tuesday (19 Aug)
  9. Robbery suspect dies in hospital Thursday (21 Aug)
  10. Love, a new revelation Thursday (21 Aug)