A leading geneticist from Harvard Medical School has created a master plan to bring back the long-extinct Neanderthals. All he needs is an "extremely adventurous female human" to serve as surrogate mother to deliver a cloned Neanderthal baby.
Professor George Church of Harvard University, who had helped start the Human Genome Project, believes he can reconstruct Neanderthal DNA and resurrect the ancient pre-human species that died out 33,000 years ago.
Church told German magazine Der Spiegel that the cloning of a live Neanderthal baby would be possible in our lifetime. However, his ambitious plan requires a human volunteer to bring man's long-extinct close relative back to life.
Church explained that the analysis of Neanderthal genetic code from samples of ancient bones is complete enough to reconstruct their DNA.
"Now I need an adventurous female human," Church said. "It depends on a hell of a lot of things, but I think it can be done."
He said he would start by artificially creating Neanderthal DNA based on the genetic code yielded from fossil remains.
"You have got a shot at anything where you have the DNA," Church explained to Der Spiegel. "The limit for finding DNA fragments is probably around a million years."
Afterwards, he would put the artificial DNA into stem cells and inject the stem cells into cells from a human embryo in the early stages of life.
Church believes that the dose of stem cells would direct the development of the hybrid embryo on Neanderthal lines, rather than human ones.
After developing the hybrid embryo in the lab for a few days, scientists would then implant the "neo- Neanderthal" embryo in the womb of a volunteer surrogate mother.
However, Church noted that the prerequisite of his plan coming true would be that human cloning is acceptable to society. He also said that a "cohort" would have to be created to give the long-extinct Neanderthal "some sense of identity".
Church said that the Neanderthals were not the unsophisticated, brutish species that many stereotype them to be. In fact, he says that the pre-human species was highly intelligent, had brains that were around the same size as humans and made primitive tools.
The professor said that the benefits of bringing back the Neanderthals include the fact that they may prove to be even smarter than modern humans, and "when the time comes to deal with an epidemic or getting off the planet or whatever, it's conceivable that their way of thinking could be beneficial," he said.
However, other experts are skeptical of Church's master scheme. They say that the resurrected Neanderthals might not have the immunity to modern diseases to survive, and some worry that his experimental procedure might lead to deformity. Others also worry about how the neo-Neanderthal would fit into today's world.