A Harvard professor recently claimed he can clone a Neanderthal. During an interview for the German magazine Der Spiegel, geneticist George Church said it might soon be possible to clone a Neanderthal and revised the steps the process would entail.
The 58-year-old genetics professor told Der Spiegel that the cloning could become possible at the aid of a rapidly developing technology. His research conducted during the 1980s represents the foundation of genome sequencing.
First and foremost, the process would require the enlisting of a woman willing to carry the cloned Neanderthal to term. After that, the following step would be to sequence the Neanderthal genome, which has already been done. Afterwards, “the next step would be to chop this genome up into, say, 10,000 chunks and then synthesize these. Finally, you would introduce these chunks into a human stem cell,” Church told the German magazine.
Further down the line, the stem cell line would get closer and closer to the corresponding sequence of the Neanderthal. The last step would be assembling “all the chunks in a human stem cell” and create the clone.
Such an endeavor would require overcoming at least two relevant barriers, setting aside all the ethical issues. First, cloning is illegal in a large number of countries and second actually finding an adventurous enough woman to take part in the process would be at best a daunting task. Furthermore, putting together a genome out of scattered fragments at the use of a technology that doesn’t yet exist would pose the risk of either missing a bit of code or getting it wrong. Such a development would yield a stillborn or a horribly deformed new born baby.
During his interview, Church acknowledged the moral and ethical issues his research could raise and said he expects that such an experiment could only be conducted once “human cloning is acceptable to society.” However, the professor got defensive when confronted with the fact that cloning a Neanderthal for no other purpose than satisfying a scientific curiosity is highly ethically problematic.