21 July 2006

First Catch Your Neanderthal

This stuff is getting too easy.

First, find some ancient remains - Croatian Neanderthal bones are great. Next, sequence lots - at least 20 times coverage. Don't worry if all you're getting are tiny fragments with around 100 DNA letters, and the signal is vastly swamped by bacterial noise. Just bung the results into a computer, and tell it (a) to cancel out all bacterial genome sequences (b) to join up all the rest. Result: one Neanderthal genome.

There's just one problem:

If the Neanderthal genome were fully recovered, it might in principle be possible to bring the species back from extinction by inserting the Neanderthal genome into a human egg and having volunteers bear Neanderthal infants. There would, however, be great technical and ethical barriers to any such venture.

Understatement of the Year, Number 369.

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