New research suggests the Neanderthals died out earlier than previously believed.
Neanderthals became extinct 33,000 years ago (Reuters) Reuters

A geneticist has claimed it is possible to clone a Neanderthal baby using ancient DNA - but only if he can find an "adventurous" woman to give birth to it.

George Church, a genetics professor at Harvard School of Medicine, believes he can resurrect the extinct ancestor of the human race by reconstructing its DNA using samples collected from Neanderthal bones.

His plan would be to put this DNA into stem cells and inject them into a human embryo. Church believes the Neanderthal DNA would be the dominant strain and the clone would present characteristics from the extinct race.

One major obstacle in the way of the plan, however, is that he needs a volunteer surrogatre mother.

He told German magazine Der Spiegel: "I have already managed to attract enough DNA from fossil bones to reconstruct the DNA of the human species largely extinct. Now I need an adventurous female human.

"It depends on a lot of things but I think it can be done. A bunch of technologies are developing faster than ever before.

"In particular, reading and writing DNA is now about a million times faster than seven or eight years ago."

Church, a hugely respected professional in his field who helped initiate the Human Genome Project that mapped human DNA, does not share the view of other geneticists who see cloning as morally wrong. He maintains that bringing Neanderthals back to life could be beneficial to mankind as a whole.

"We can clone all kinds of mammals so it's very likely that we could clone a human. Why shouldn't we be able to?" he said.

"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. They could maybe even create a new neo-Neanderthal culture and become a political force. The main goal is to increase diversity. The one thing that is bad for society is low diversity."

Church's was being scrutinised by others scientists. Philippa Taylor of the Christian Medical Fellowship said: "It is hard to know where to begin with the ethical and safety concerns."

Bioethicist Bernard Rollin of Colorado State University voiced his concern that any child created in this way is certain "to be mocked and possibly feared".