Could Neanderthals live again?

Feb 11, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
Neanderthals

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers are closer than ever to having a first draft of a complete sequence of the genome of a Neanderthal woman who lived some 30,000 years ago, and this means it may one day be possible to create a living person from the DNA sequence.

The Neanderthal woman died in the Vindija cave in what is now Croatia. are the nearest extinct relative of modern-day humans. Homo sapiens and Neanderthals coexisted for 5-7,000 years, but Neanderthals were gradually forced to retreat to the edges of what is now Europe. The fragments of DNA from the woman's bones were assembled using human and chimpanzee genomes as references. Researcher Gerald Irzyk said putting the fragments in order is difficult because at first it seems a random assemblage of the nucleotide bases, but there are patterns and motifs that are often specific to a group of organisms.

The project to map the genome began in 2005, and is run collaboratively by scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany and 454 Life Sciences at Branford, Connecticut. The work has been made possible by today’s powerful computers, which enable scientists to drastically cut the time and cost, but it has still faced many challenges largely through contamination and the breakdown and chemical changes in the biological material over time.

When an organism dies, enzymes break DNA into small fragments of only a few hundred base pairs or less. The DNA is also chemically changed over time, which can lead to incorrect interpretations of the sequence. Not only that, but over 90% of the DNA in the samples came from bacteria or other contaminants rather than the bone.

Creating body parts, organs, and even a complete living individual once the genome is completely sequenced would be difficult but is theoretically possible. The procedure would involve making possibly millions of changes to the DNA in a human stem cell to match the Neanderthal , but there remain problems because even if the Neanderthal genes could be recreated we do not know how they were expressed. Assuming it can be created, the stem cell with Neanderthal DNA would divide to produce a colony of cells that could then be instructed to become any type of cell in the body, theoretically including an entire individual.

Chief science officer of Advanced Cell Technology, Robert Lanza said in Archaeology magazine that “species such as cows and goats are now routinely cloned with few problems,” and while there are many more challenges in the case of cloning a Neanderthal, it possibly could be done. The ethics of such a move would be certain to spark a great deal of debate, and not just between paleoanthropologists.

Author of the Archaeology magazine article, Zach Zorich, who has been a keen follower of research on the Neanderthal genome, noted that if created, the Neanderthal would legally deserve the same human rights as we do.

It is likely to be quite some time before we need to deal with the ethical issues. Stephan Schuster, a geneticist from Pennsylvania State University, explained that the first draft of the genome will probably contain many errors due to the age of the sample and the contamination, and he calculates the DNA in five different samples of bone would have to be sequenced, and in all the genome would need to be sequenced 30 times before we could be confident of its accuracy.

Mapping the should allow scientists to answer questions about the relationship between us and Neanderthals, such as whether we interbred, and were separate species. It may also be useful in medical research.

Explore further: Investigators identify genes that contribute to radiation resistance

More information: www.archaeology.org/1003/etc/neanderthals.html

Related Stories

Draft version of the Neanderthal genome completed

Feb 12, 2009

In a development which could reveal the links between modern humans and their prehistoric cousins, scientists said Thursday they have mapped a first draft of the Neanderthal genome. Researchers used DNA fragments ...

Scientists redate Neanderthal fossils

Jan 05, 2006

Scientists say two Neanderthal fossils excavated from Vindija Cave in Croatia in 1998 may be 3,000-4,000 years older than originally thought.

Handsome by Chance

Aug 02, 2007

Chance, not natural selection, best explains why the modern human skull looks so different from that of its Neanderthal relative, according to a new study led by Tim Weaver, assistant professor of anthropology at UC Davis.

Recommended for you

User comments : 30

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

NameIsNotNick
3 / 5 (4) Feb 11, 2010
Just because we can doesn't mean we should. We obviously didn't get along last time we co-existed. Next time we might not come out on top ;-)
Skeptic_Heretic
3 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2010
Just because we can doesn't mean we should. We obviously didn't get along last time we co-existed. Next time we might not come out on top ;-)

Current forerunner for how the Neanderthals died out is that they were bred into modern human society.

The FOXP gene that gives us the ability to speak didn't originate within Modern humans, but in Neanderthals or a prior, and as of yet unknown, common ancestor.
NameIsNotNick
5 / 5 (1) Feb 11, 2010
Current forerunner for how the Neanderthals died out is that they were bred into modern human society.

The FOXP gene that gives us the ability to speak didn't originate within Modern humans, but in Neanderthals or a prior, and as of yet unknown, common ancestor.


I'm not sure this represents a commonly held view. AFAIK, there is no strong evidence that Neanderthals interbred with ancient humans. You might want to read this article: http://www.scienc...3223.htm
Trim
5 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2010
Assuming it can be manufactured, how will it be born a surrogate mother? Human or ape? A human needs a load of symbiotic help to digest food, kill bad bacteria and move efficiently. How do you supply those to a Neanderthal if it is a totally different species?
rgw
3 / 5 (9) Feb 11, 2010
You want evidence that Neanderthals interbreed with humans? Walk through the inner city after dark or visit the House of Representatives.
El_Nose
3 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2010
I have read a lot of articles suggesting that Neanderthals and modern man intermingled and interbred. It is absolutely tru that we both existed at the same time and at in many regions coexisted -- so cohabitation is certainly possible.

But I agree this is something we should not do... create organs, create pieces of the immune system -- but if you create a living sentient being then you take responsiblilty for them and that is something we cannot do... you cannot be responsible for a sentient being actions because they will grow up and be independent -- so cohabitation is not out of the question.

But can you take responsibility for new interspecies mingling -- for reintroducing this genome into the human population...

Cause if you created a Neanderthal -- you couldn't keep them locked up in a lab... they ARE sentient.
otto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 11, 2010
but if you create a living sentient being then you take responsiblilty for them and that is something we cannot do
But we do that all the time, and often by people who take little or no responsibility after it is born.

Bring them back? Not for awhile anyways. But sooner or later it is probably inevitable. There will be all sorts of human variations created in the future, as well as extinct creatures recreated, so neandertals will be less of an anomaly.
MVV
2 / 5 (4) Feb 11, 2010
we owe them to bring them back onboard. Our species obliterated their way of living , we have profanated their resources , so , before we bring'em back we should restore their forests.

Anyway , whe should have their comeback poised to occur if we see another ice age dawing on us. H. Sapiens is not very well adapted to thrive in that condition , but our Neanderthal cousins would be at home in that conditions. They could be our carekeepers...and someday , our forerunners to Mars.

About responsability , i agree with otto , we would have the same responsability to them as the parents to the child , to foster them unto the world , teach them how to survive and prosper , and then let them fly on their own wings.
tkjtkj
4.2 / 5 (6) Feb 11, 2010
So, the goals would include breeding her??
This (painfully) reminds me of what 'whiteman' did to my people: decimating them under some umbrella of 'helping'. To create a humanesque being which would certainly be unable to cope with our society is unconscionable. Where would she live? in a cage? in some lab?? What about her children, what about the male donor of sperm that let her be bred?? Who'd have custody of the offspring: some scientist?? Who would support them? Would the father have legal rights to his children?
Would this 'mom to be''s offspring have to live on some 'research reservation'? Would she and her offspring be refused education so as to 'study a relatively uncontaminated' person? How could the mom deal with lawyers? how couild she be effictive is asserting her rights?

This is an outrageous affront to myself and to all individuals whose progenitors endured the terrible, even murderous, 'management' of their group by a U.S. government!

tkjtkj, m.d.
tkjtkj@gmail.com
nerolism
5 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2010
i vote resurrection, just to get debate going with the religious community if nothing else.
otto1923
2 / 5 (1) Feb 11, 2010
Remember 'Iceman'?
http://en.wikiped...n_(film)
-It may be preferable to produce a small sequestered breeding colony for study before any further decisions are made. They would have no cultural memory though, which is such a big part of what us cro-mags are. Would we give them stone axes or snowmobiles?

@tkjtkj
Relax. It is an exercise of the imagination. Neandertals are no more related to you than they are to me. We killed them off, why shouldnt we bring them back? Youre jumping to all bad conclusions. Doesnt mean there isnt some good in considering the potential. Neandertal were in many ways superior to us- larger brains, stronger. Who knows- they may fit in very well. They were a temperate/sub-arctic variant as opposed to us tropical types. Maybe they could teach us how to finally adjust.
El_Nose
5 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2010
@ everyone - woah woah woahhhh...

@MVV - owe them, really we owe Neanderthal man something and should bring them back - we owe them nothing, we interbred with them and lived with them - the fact they died out is not our concern, we did not hunt them down creully.. at least there is no evidence of that so we owe them nothing

@ MVV & tkjtkj

why does everyone assume Neanderthal man is stupid -- or would be unable to cope with modern society -- yes if we went back in time and picked one up and ported back they would have a really hard time -- but if you are born into a world it would be the only one you ever knew -- no adjustment needed, its silly to think a Neanderthal could not survive today.

@ rgw I could say the same thing about ultra rural america - like most of the state of WV, or how about the british royal line, be careful where you through your slurs, sir.

@otto give them a computer /w google, 'the Theory of Algebra' and a chemistry book -- they'll catch up.
El_Nose
not rated yet Feb 11, 2010
@otto -- HA... not disagreeing but ha -- so make a colony - give them Northern Canada Alaska,Siberia and greenland and see how they do ??

I am against bringing them back -- but I do think that they would fit in -- and my issue is that our genetic code has moved on -- why reintroduce a strain that disappeared 100's of years ago -- who knows they may be severly subseptable to the rhinovirus, and then where would we be??
johnshoemaker
1 / 5 (1) Feb 11, 2010
Mexico will send anyone to medical school who promises to give 6 yrs service to the country. There is a free doctor in every desert or jungle.
The media has taught US to think about things like this and colonies on Mars instead. High tech. profits from this dna game It does not profit from allowing US to talk to a doctor. US is taught to worry about the social life of an extremely improbable being and remain ignorant of health care in North America.
Strengthing "insurance companies" with tax money who stand between doctor and patient isn't the way.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Feb 11, 2010
who knows they may be severly subseptable to the rhinovirus, and then where would we be??

They could also be immune to any host of modern human maladies. Seeing as the Rhinovirus has been around for a long, long time, I'm fairly sure they can cope with all but the newest variants. Perhaps the flu would give them a run for their money, but I have a feeling they'd have an incredibly similar immune system to ourselves, perhaps, even stronger than.
Canman
5 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2010
otto 1923
"relax.........exercise of the imagination"

otto, don't underestimate man's capacity for making horrible decisions. If you can think of it, there is someone who will do it.
just_doug
not rated yet Feb 11, 2010
Given the Supreme Court's prior ruling that life is patentable I don't know how that guy can conclude they would receive the same rights as humans. More likely they will be patented and sold as sex slaves. ;-) It would certainly settle the interbreeding debate.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Feb 11, 2010
otto, don't underestimate man's capacity for making horrible decisions. If you can think of it, there is someone who will do it.

This should be posted above every doorway in existence.
otto1923
2.5 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2010
If you can think of it, there is someone who will do it.
And by extention: if it is possible to do, then you better do it first or your enemies will, and they will use it against you. Thats why I'm just so -proud- of my country =O
frajo
1 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2010
if it is possible to do, then you better do it first or your enemies will,
Sounds like fear for the individual and instability for society.
zevkirsh
Feb 11, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
scidog
Feb 12, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Mercury_01
5 / 5 (1) Feb 12, 2010
I say do it. If people treat her with respect, she should be honored to hold such an important place in the world as a way for us to understand our past. Then let her decide if she wants to continue her lineage any further.
dsl5000
not rated yet Feb 12, 2010
how do you tell your kid he's a neanderthal?


how do people call other people by a racial slur?
otto1923
not rated yet Feb 13, 2010
Sounds like fear for the individual and instability for society.
Sounds like sound strategic judgement. Sounds like survival and the preservation of all that is good. Sounds like victory. Glauben-Kampfen-Siegen
Quantum_Conundrum
not rated yet Feb 13, 2010
If they do this, the neanderthal will probably prove all the stupid theories wrong.

She will be:

Twice as smart as Einstein
live to be 300yrs old
better looking than "modern" woman
nicer too
physically stronger than a male "modern human" body builder.

It is far more likely that neanderthals are simply one of the antedeluvian families which went extinct at the time of Noah, and I wouldn't be surprised if they are genetically superior to modern humans in nearly every way, as I believe in degeneration.

So if she converts to christianity then marrying the clone of your great-great-great-great-great...some number of greats...great-great-great aunt doesn't violate any Biblical commandments.
Quantum_Conundrum
not rated yet Feb 13, 2010
...nevermind...I see they don't ACTUALLY have a neanderthal's DNA, but simply pieced a bunch of garbage together using a chimp as a reference...sounds a lot like the bad science from Jurassic Park..

...you idiots can keep your monkey girl away from any "modern males".
Koen
not rated yet Feb 14, 2010
Neanderthals are better adapted to cold climate, can survive the comming ice age. Are modern humans also genetic experiments done a long time ago, who outlived their 'creators'?
mosahlah
not rated yet Feb 14, 2010
I'm down for some Neanderthal babes. She ought to produce some excellent soldiers.
theknifeman
not rated yet Feb 15, 2010
So what if we bring them back and they have a basic set of behaviors generally unacceptable to modern society? A new breed of brutal criminals? What then? Kill them all off again? Leave it on paper and out of the lab.
dachpyarvile
3 / 5 (2) Feb 17, 2010
Ok. So whose mtDNA do we use? Have they thought about that? nDNA is only part of the equation. There are some rather horrible diseases and syndromes that can come about with defective mtDNA.

Do we know what their mtDNA structure was? We do not even have a complete picture of their nDNA without backward comparison with Chimp nDNA. Sounds like a waste of time and money to me to try to bring these back without the whole of the genome intact.
Mercury_01
not rated yet Feb 18, 2010


...you idiots can keep your monkey girl away from any "modern males".


Why do you think they want to create her?