Who doesn’t love a mad bit of science? From Tesla towers to Cloning Sheep there is always something fantastical about experimental or dangerous science. This week it was announced that Harvard geneticist George Church was looking for a suitably adventurous surrogate mother to carry and deliver a Neanderthal baby. If the experiment proved successful it would result in the first Neanderthal to be born in over 30,000 years (unless you count Wayne Rooney, natch).
Taken from the Google Translated Der Spiegel (original version here):
Hamburg – fear of genetic engineering is widespread in Germany, and molecular biologist George Church represents more than any other profession one that is willing to unconditionally try everything feasible is: If the scientists at Harvard University speaks of life, then it sounds as if talking he kind of a miracle machine. “It’s as if some ingenious engineer a spaceship parked in our backyard,” he says. And this spaceship put “full of surprises”.
Church looks at life as a gift that nature has given to man. His job as a researcher in genetics consists in exploring all the technical possibilities offered by this gift to him, he explained the current Spiegel.
Seems foolhardy as to his vision to recreate the Neanderthal again – it is technically quite possible. What’s more, the now 58-year-old biotech pioneer believes its a good chance to experience this rebirth yet. Is already managed to attract enough DNA from fossil bones for them to reconstruct the DNA of the human species largely extinct.
Church wants to use that knowledge to human cells in the laboratory to adapt gradually to those of a Neanderthal. The necessary technology currently developing it in his lab. As a surrogate for the so created the first Neanderthal clone it then applies to “find an adventurous female human”.
In the last step, you can make the clone other artificially produced counterparts to the side, so that at the end of “a kind of Neanderthal culture” arises, the “political importance would get” too.
Eventually, Church says further that bioengineers would also begin doing your own at the genetic makeup of modern man. Too tempting are the chances of cloning and genetic engineering, as that they would abandon the long-term use of these techniques.
“What if we were all 120” asks Church. “It could be that you will deem this desirable.”
Even resistance to all kinds of viruses could be produced according to his conviction. Whether measles, AIDS, flu or simple colds – all these sufferings have been defeated with a match. Necessary, according to Church is only one thing to change the genetic code of all life on Earth is based.
These visions also measure may sound, the word of Harvard researchers has thoroughly weight. Because Church is one of the key figures of the American GM scene. He was co-initiator of the started in the eighties, Human Genome Project, which made it his goal to decode the human genome. He was later, in addition to the two great pioneers Jim Watson and Craig Venter, one of the first people whose genome was sequenced and published.
Church today is working on the practical realization of his visions: he develops fast track to becoming cheaper genetic information to read or re-synthesising. It simulates in his lab in Boston evolutionary processes in order to thus control the genetic modification of organisms better. And the genetic material of the Old Super searching for the secret of long life.
In recent years, Church made primarily as a pioneer of the so-called synthetic biology headlines. Together with a handful of other visionaries, he wrote a manifesto, in which researchers proclaim the dawn of a new era: The life, it says, is nothing more than a kit full Biobausteine. The biologists come to the task of engineers who could construct these building blocks always new Biomaschinen. “The science of synthetic life permeate nearly all industrial areas,” says Church.
Could he understand that many a queasy face of such fantasies, asked the MIRROR. If he could understand the fears that many feel when he put a genetic modification of the human species into view? No, said the researchers, he can not understand “why many people should be so deeply hurt by this kind of technology.” Finally, the biological species concept is anyway going to change. So far, have always been considered that the man with other biological species could not exchange DNA. “But this barrier will fall.”
So in essence he wants to go all Dr Henry Wu on us and bring back an extinct species, but one that could result in a better understanding of our ancestry. Could it be that the larger cranial capacity reflects a larger, more intelligent mind? Could we have evolved to our environment, but essentially ‘dumbed down’ over the millennia? As unlikely as it is that we will see his work taken to fruition, I for one find it fascinating that it is possible at all, and hope that one day the curiosity that has led to so many fascinating revelations in the field of science wins out. Who knows, perhaps one day our entire species could become a splice of the two, if someone ended up going for a bit of Neanderthal lovin’.
Three images attached to the original article explain how the science works, it seems to involve weird skulls, pliers AND submarines! In fact, it seems to suggest an origin story for Murray the skull off of the Monkey Island games. Maybe a bit of Fantastic Voyage too, perhaps the actual plan is to create a series of evil Raquel Welch clones..?