There were other titles I contemplated using for this post:
- My son, the Neanderthal;
- Rent Your Womb To Church, Robert Church;
- Got womb? Church Wants You.
What might possibly be the subject where any one of these titles would do?
Science. Namely, but not necessarily in this order, the fields of science having to do with DNA, synthetic genomics, Neanderthals, cloning… After even a brief reading beyond this post, you might feel like adding a few more categories to the string.
A much clearer picture of Human Genome Project can be found and downloaded here.
In not so many of not so precise words, the following took place in the world of biological sciences and technology in May of 2010:
- George Church’s lab (Harvard) announced development of a new technologies for large scale bacterial genome engineering. Follow the link if you want to know more.
- The Neandertal genome was successfully decoded;
- The above break through showed that humans and Neanderthals interbred;
- Not necessarily because of the above, Neanderthals went extinct about 30,000 years ago. Or 28,874, or, perhaps, even 31,285.
- Around the same time, not 30,000 years ago, but in the 2010, the J. Craig Venter Institute announced their chemical synthesis of a complete bacterial genome and its “booting up” in a closely related cell. (Follow the hyperlink for more information).
It is a truly fascinating coincidence — 2 breakthrough discoveries plus a development of the new technology has sprung up in such a close proximity of one another.
Would it, then, be possible to clone Neanderthals by a combination of gene synthesis, human genome editing, and stem cell cloning? In layman’s terms, Can Neanderthals Be Brought Back from the Dead?
Professor G. Church says yes, humankind is a spit away from Second Creation, and totally human-made at that.
You’d start with a stem cell genome from a human adult and gradually reverse-engineer it into the Neanderthal genome or a reasonably close equivalent. These stem cells can produce tissues and organs.
If society becomes comfortable with cloning and sees value in true human diversity, then the whole Neanderthal creature itself could be cloned by a surrogate mother chimp–or by an extremely adventurous human female.
Prof. Church written a book, “Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves,” and encoded it as strands of DNA, which he distributed on small DNA chips. Speaking of new reading gadgets! It can be found on less exotic devices as well, such as paper, on Amazon.
Prof. Church cites increasing diversity as the main driving force behind humanity’s desire to re-create Neanderthals or create diluted versions, say 50/50 human-Neanderthals.
In his book, he states that an “extremely adventurous female human” could serve as the surrogate mother, and hopes that one day such “female human” would find her way to his lab, but a chimp would do as well.
Different aspects of this issue were variously massaged in both scientific and popular publications. Remarkably (or not?), the prospect of diversifying human society by infusing it with Neanderthals hasn’t been met with much enthusiasm.
Scientific American: Alpha males and “adventurous human females”: gender and synthetic genomics addresses ethical concerns about the development of reproductive technologies, mammalian cloning and the question of Neanderthal resurrection.
The Guardian: Have a Neanderthal baby and save humanity simply states that scientists who propose this kind of science should be willing to try it on themselves, and suggests waiting until Prof. Church has a go first. There are over 270 comments for this article, an interesting read in itself. Vox Populi is a disjointed chorus of baffled voices, not terribly supportive of the future developments. The idea of Neanderthals walking among us is viewed as a bothersome nuisance on par with vampires, walking dead, zombies, although some vampires… Ah, never mind.
And here is Professor George Church, in his own words, led smartly by the interviewer of the Spiegel magazine, English language edition: Interview with George Church: Can Neanderthals Be Brought Back from the Dead?
On my Smile page I have a picture of another possible candidate to serve as a surrogate mother for a Neanderthal baby, that is if no adventurous human female turns up. And she is in a stable relationship, too!