Should We Clone Neanderthals?

Ferrassie Neanderthal Skull

“Six years ago if you wanted to sequence E. coli [a species of bacteria], which is about 4 million base-pairs in length, it would have taken one or maybe two million dollars, and it would have taken a year and 150 people. Nowadays, one person can do it in two days and it would cost a few hundred dollars.”
– Thomas Jarvie

“As the Neanderthal genome is painstakingly sequenced, the archaeologists and biologists who study it will be faced with an opportunity that seemed like science fiction just 10 years ago. They will be able to look at the genetic blueprint of humankind’s nearest relative and understand its biology as intimately as our own.

“In addition to giving scientists the ability to answer questions about Neanderthals’ relationship to our own species – did we interbreed, are we separate species, who was smarter – the Neanderthal genome may be useful in researching medical treatments. Newly developed techniques could make cloning Neanderthal cells or body parts a reality within a few years. The ability to use the genes of extinct hominins is going to force the field of paleoanthropology into some unfamiliar ethical territory. There are still technical obstacles, but soon it could be possible to use that long-extinct genome to safely create a healthy, living Neanderthal clone. Should it be done?”
— Zach Zorich

“Neanderthals are not just sort of funny Eskimos who lived 60,000 years ago.They have a different way to give birth to babies, differences in life history, shape of inner ear, genetics, the speed of development of individuals, weaning, age of puberty.”
– Jean-Jacques Hublin

“I’m convinced that if one were to raise a Neanderthal in a modern human family he would function just like everybody else. I have no reason to doubt he could speak and do all the things that modern humans do.”
– Trenton Holliday

“I think there would be no question that if you cloned a Neanderthal, that individual would be recognized as having human rights under the Constitution and international treaties.”
— Lori Andrews

The March/April issue of Archaeology Magazine features a fascinating article by Zach Zorich, asking Should We Clone Neanderthals?

Update: A related item in New Scientist discusses the regeneration of the woolly mammoth blood protein hemoglobin, and anticipates the resurrection of similar Neanderthal proteins.

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Published in: on May 1, 2010 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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