Can We Clone a Neanderthal?

Answer by Kate Cherry, explains genetics for a living

Courtesy of Photaro

Not with the technology available right now. In the next few years, it may be possible to come close, but there are a number of scientific limitations and ethical concerns that arise when you start thinking about this process.

I’ll start by outlining the basic process of cloning an animal. First, an egg cell is retrieved from the animal. The nucleus of this cell is then removed, to get rid of the genetic material. Then, genetic material from the animal you want to clone is removed from its cell and inserted into the “empty” egg. If all goes well, then the egg will start dividing as a normal embryo would, and it can be implanted into the host mother who would become pregnant with the clone. The resulting baby would have the exact same DNA as the animal from which the original cell was extracted.

When thinking about doing this process with Neanderthal DNA, there are a few problems that arise. First of all, there are no Neanderthal remains from which we could extract a viable egg. Presumably, human eggs are very similar to Neanderthal eggs and may work as a replacement, but it’s fully possible that any attempt to create an embryo this way would fail after the fusion stage. There is a very delicate balance inside the human egg that directs the process of very early cell division and differentiation, which is partly controlled by the proteins and hormones inside the egg’s cytoplasm (that is, the part not removed with the nucleus), and partly controlled by the genes present in the zygote and epigenetic factors that affect the expression of these genes. —> Read More