Surrogate Mother Wanted for Neanderthal Baby

One scientist speculates that cloning a live Neanderthal might someday be feasible.
Mauro Cutrona

Not everyone, however, shares Church's enthusiasm for cloned Neanderthals, in light of the ethical issues involved.

"I don't think it's fair to put people ... into a circumstance where they are going to be mocked and possibly feared," bioethicist Bernard E. Rollin of Colorado State University in Fort Collins told the British newspaper The Independent.

It's also possible a Neanderthal baby would lack immunity to contemporary infectious diseases, and therefore might not survive, the Independent reports. Neanderthals, our closest known genetic relatives, died off some 30,000 years ago. (However, recent research has suggested Neanderthals and other extinct humans, such as the Denisovans, might have endowed some humans with robust immune systems.)

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"Setting aside the ethical issues behind creating the lone survivor of an extinct human species, doomed to be a freak under the microscope of celebrity … I have to question Dr. Church's contention that it would really be that easy to clone a Neanderthal," Alex Knapp said in Forbes.

"Other mammals have been cloned. But at a cost — clones often experience a host of health problems," Knapp said. "For example, the first cloned sheep, Dolly, was one of 29 cloned embryos. He was the only one to survive."

Any surrogate mothers chosen to give birth to a Neanderthal clone might also suffer, Knapp said. "The reality is that success would require dozens of women — many of whom would almost certainly go through the trauma of miscarriage and stillbirths that appear to be inevitable when it comes to cloning.

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"The ethical implications of just this simple aspect of the process are pretty damning," Knapp told Forbes.

Nonetheless, Church believes the challenges can — and should — be overcome.

"We can clone all kinds of mammals, so it's very likely that we could clone a human. Why shouldn't we be able to do so?" he told Der Spiegel. "It depends on a hell of a lot of things, but I think it can be done."

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