Could a Surrogate Mother Deliver a Neanderthal Baby?

In a controversial interview that has ignited commentary across the world, a respected Harvard professor of genetics has suggested an “extremely adventurous female human” might someday serve as surrogate mother for a cloned Neanderthal baby.

Besides saying that the cloning of a live Neanderthal baby would be possible in our lifetime, George Church told Der Spiegel magazine that using stem cells to create a Neanderthal could have significant benefits to society. “The first thing you have to do is to sequence the Neanderthal genome, and that has actually been done,” Church said.

“The next step would be to chop this genome up into, say, 10,000 chunks and then … assemble all the chunks in a human stem cell, which would enable you to finally create a Neanderthal clone,” Church told Der Spiegel.

Scientists completed the first sequence of the Neanderthal genome in 2010, finding genetic evidence suggesting ancestors of modern humans successfully interbred with Neanderthals, at least occasionally. More recent research has suggested Neanderthal DNA makes up 1 percent to 4 percent of the genomes of modern Eurasians. [The 10 Biggest Mysteries of the First Humans]

The benefits, according to Church, include an increase in genetic diversity. “The one thing that is bad for society is low diversity,” Church said. “If you become a monoculture, you are at great risk of perishing. Therefore the recreation of Neanderthals would be mainly a question of societal risk avoidance.”

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