The debate of whether it is morally right to clone human beings remains controversial in the wider community. The issue also divides many scientists, with some who feel that it is the natural progression of science to be able to clone humans, and others feeling that science has no place in the realm of human cloning.
In a scene that could be from a science fiction movie – a la Jurassic Park (just minus the dinosaurs) – researchers from Harvard Medical School feel that they are scientifically ready to clone humans. However, it is not modern day humans they wish to clone, rather Homo neanderthalensis, a past species of humans that became extinct roughly 30 thousand years ago. Professor George Church of the Harvard Medical School plans to bridge IVF and Palaeontology to clone Homo neanderthalensis.
The plan, according to Professor Church, is to extract the DNA from fossils and introduce this extracted DNA into human DNA. Then, by using IVF techniques, this hybrid DNA would be introduced into human stem cells to create a Human/Neanderthal hybrid fetus and implanted into a willing surrogate mother to develop. This all on the premise that the Neanderthal clone could be the missing link in discovering cures for diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer and unlocking the path to living to a ripe old age of 120.
In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Professor Church states:
“Neanderthals might think differently than we do. We know that they had a larger cranial size. They could even be more intelligent than us. 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.”
When asked if it was right to re-create a 30,000-year-old extinct human for the sake of scientific curiosity, Professor Church answered:
“Well, curiosity may be part of it, but it’s not the most important driving force. The main goal is to increase diversity. The one thing that is bad for society is low diversity. This is true for culture or evolution, for species and also for whole societies. If you become a monoculture, you are at great risk of perishing. Therefore the recreation of Neanderthals would be mainly a question of societal risk avoidance.”
However, this kind of human cloning remains illegal in many countries including Australia, Europe and the United States due to banned reproductive cloning or laws against funding cloning procedures.
The full interview makes for a very interesting read, check it out for yourself here.