The Neandertal treatment

Virginia Hughes, in National Geographic News, takes on the subject of whether we will someday clone Neandertals: “Return of the Neanderthals”. She gets into the technical issues a bit and discusses George Church’s book Regenesis, which touched off the Neandertal cloning discussion earlier this year.

Toward the end of the article, I get to share some of my own thinking about the utility of Neandertal biological discoveries:

Neanderthals' climate, diet, and disease exposures were not the same as those of our ancestors, and left different adaptive marks on their genome. And yet Neanderthals are far more similar to modern humans than the animals commonly used to study disease, such as fruit flies and rodents.
"There are issues that humans have now, where it's very plausible that Neanderthal biology might actually show us something," Hawks says. "Our knowledge of the evolutionary process could guide us toward possible treatments."

This is a message I’ve been sharing with public audiences for the last year. Our knowledge about human evolution is now shaping the way we approach medicine and health in ways we never could have imagined ten years ago. It’s inspiring to know that paleoanthropology has begun to really matter in human biology.