Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Needed: Volunteer Womb

So what woman would want to give birth to a Neanderthal baby? Yet this incredible scenario is the plan of one of the world’s leading geneticists, who is seeking a volunteer to help bring man’s long-extinct close relative back to life.

Professor George Church of Harvard Medical School believes he can reconstruct Neanderthal DNA and resurrect the species which became extinct 33,000 years ago. His scheme is reminiscent of Jurassic Park but, while in the film dinosaurs were created in a laboratory, Professor Church’s ambitious plan requires a human volunteer.

He said his analysis of Neanderthal genetic code using samples from bones is complete enough to reconstruct their DNA...‘Now I need an adventurous female human. ‘It depends on a hell of a lot of things, but I think it can be done.’

Professor Church’s plan would begin by artificially creating Neanderthal DNA based on genetic code found in fossil remains. He would put this DNA into stem cells. These would be injected into cells from a human embryo in the early stages of life. It is thought that the stem cells would steer the development of the hybrid embryo on Neanderthal lines, rather than human ones.
OK, so far so good.  Let's assume the experiment works as planned, and a Neandertkid is born, what do we do with it?
‘Neanderthals might think differently than we do. They could even be more intelligent than us. ‘When the time comes to deal with an epidemic or getting off the planet, it’s conceivable that their way of thinking could be beneficial.’

However, experts worry that neo-Neanderthals might lack the immunity to modern diseases to survive, and some fear that the process might lead to deformity.
It's certainly true that a Neanderthal suddenly born today would lack approximately 30,000 or so years worth of evolution to adapt to the pathogens that currently plague mankind (pathogens which are also constantly evolving).  On the other hand, their genome might hold the key to adaption to some current diseases as well.  I assume we could vaccinate the Neanderkid from the majority of the diseases that routinely attack humans, but who knows, it might experience a common cold as fatal infection.  Let's assume it would grow up in a medically protected environment, much like the kid in the bubble.  Now what?
There is also uncertainty over how they would fit into today’s world. Bioethicist Bernard Rollin of Colorado State University said: ‘I don’t think it’s fair to put people... into a circumstance where they are going to be mocked and possibly feared.’
Now that just being stupid.  Lots of kids grow up in circumstances where they may be mocked or feared, and I think such a child would grow up in a carefully protected environment, and would probably end up spoiled rotten by women scientists.

So the only question is, who is willing to volunteer their womb for the job?  I have a suggestion:

but there's an alternative if an older womb will be adequate:

Raquel Welch "One Million B.C." (1966)

or perhaps:

Senta Berger - "When Women Had Tails" (1971)

Carol Landis - "One Million B.C." (1940)

or even:

Edina Ronay in "Prehistoric Women" (1967)
Wombat-Socho has this one in with his great (in more ways than one) list of Rule 5 posts "Neuroengesang" at The Other McCain.

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