In an interview with Big Think, Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York, wonders: what if we could clone the Neanderthal, or a dinosaur, based solely off their genomes? The Neanderthals went extinct tens of thousands of years ago, so cloning one from recovered DNA would be impressive enough of a feat — but what about something from 65 million years ago? Dr. Kaku notes that proteins found within the soft tissues of recovered dinosaur femurs resemble those of chickens, frogs, and reptiles — confirm the theory of their relation. He posits that through the use of a supercomputer, a genetic sequence could be produced, which would create theoretical potential for cloning through epigenetics.
When it comes to cloning mammoths or dinosaurs, the limitations are mostly technical at this point. With Neanderthals, however, there’s an addition element: ethics. Dr. Kaku asks important questions about what scientists would do after bringing a Neanderthal child to life: Should he or she be placed in captivity like some kind of zoo animal? Would they face a lifetime of study? What if the Neanderthal is naturally aggressive — should it be drugged or confined at all times? Many bioethicists debate the ethics of de-extinction, but there are also those that tout genetic diversity. Others believe the act is far too inhumane to even attempt.
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