Using Neanderthal DNA, scientists are now genetically engineering ‘miniature-brains.’ This is one of the many steps in trying to see the difference between our brains and our ancient relatives.
In the upcoming months, researchers will grow small pieces of tissue known as brain organdies. Researchers will use human stem cells to grow the Neanderthal version of some genes.
The organoids only replicate basic structures of an adult’s brain, but it’s not able to have thoughts or feelings. This is the first time when tissue will be used to find the differences between our brains and the Neanderthal’s.
Our Closest Relatives
The director of the genetics department at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany) is Prof. Svante Pääbo. He stated why they used Neanderthals to compare it with our brain:
“Neanderthals are the closest relatives to everyday humans, so if we should define ourselves as a group or a species it is really them that we should compare ourselves to.”
In the past, Prof. Pääbo has been the leader of international research in the Neanderthal genome, but now he wants to bring it to life through gene-editing techniques. This way, they could be able to find “basic differences in how nerve cells function that may be a basis for why humans seem to be cognitively so special.”
Finding More About Humanity
The discovery of Neanderthals’ habits of producing cave art, burying their dead and having larger brains than humans made scientists want to learn more about our ancient relatives.
After analyzing the Neanderthal genome, scientists revealed that Neanderthal interbred with our ancestors. Now, all non-African population has 1-4% of their DNA.
Prof. Pääbo also wants to know how did humanity flourished, and they will find out by looking into those brains.
“Is there a biological basis for why modern humans went on to become millions and eventually billions of people, spread across the world and have culture?”
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere