News Column

Geneticist Says Neanderthal Story Misread

Jan 22, 2013

A U.S. geneticist says he never said he wanted to clone a Neanderthal -- he said science should simply talk about such cloning if it's "technically possible."

Professor George M. Church of Harvard Medical School's genetics department told The Boston Herald he believes the misunderstanding came from a bad translation by English-speaking journalists of an interview he did with the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel.

He said his comment that cloning of Neanderthal DNA might theoretically someday be possible morphed into a news story he was actively looking for an "adventurous" woman to give birth to such a baby.

"I'm certainly not advocating [cloning Neanderthals]," Church told the Herald in a story published Tuesday. "I'm saying, if it is technically possible someday, we need to start talking about it today."

Church said he was not involved in the sequencing of Neanderthal DNA that helped determine that traces of the species or subspecies believed to have died off about 33,000 years ago can still be found in modern humans.

DNA is the genetic instruction used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms.

Church told the Herald his own work focuses on using genetics, DNA and genome sequencing to improve healthcare -- not reproduce prehistoric human beings.

He said he would use the misunderstanding "as an educational moment to talk about journalism and technology."



Source: Copyright United Press International 2013