Is prominent synthetic biologist George Church in search of a human surrogate for a Neanderthal baby?
"Definitely not," he said yesterday, dashing the hopes of extremely adventurous human females everywhere, in a phone interview with AP's Malcolm Ritter. "We have no projects, no plans, we have no papers, no grants [to do that.]"
Reports and headlines to the contrary, Ritter reports, stem from a misunderstood interview Church gave the German magazine Der Spiegel about his newly published book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves (a phenomenal read, btw):
Church said the idea of bringing back Neanderthals gets brief mention as a theoretical possibility, and the book refers to an "adventurous" woman merely to point out that the process would require a woman who no doubt would be adventurous.
"It said you're going to need someone like that if you're going to do it," he said. "It's certainly very different from taking out a want ad."
Do we weep for the Neanderthal child who, for now, will go unborn? Sure. Still, the fact that Church isn't tracking down potential Neandermoms means he's spending even more time on actual, real-life ridiculously awesome science. Like using DNA to store digital information at truly mind-boggling densities. Like, a-thousand-terabytes-of-data-in-a-cubic-millimeter-type densities. Yes, really.
Neanderthal reconstruction by Kennis and Kennis, photo credit: Joe McNalley