90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Is Creating New Life — Maybe Even A Neanderthal — Possible?

Creating new life and bringing back old. Maybe even Neanderthal man.

Children watch a giant mammoth and a calf model at the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, Germany. (AP)

Children watch a giant mammoth and a calf model at the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, Germany. (AP)

Synthetic biology can sound kind of bland.  Like polyester pants.  Nylon stockings.  Synthetic – no big deal.

But think about it.  Synthetic biology.  Biology fully, deeply, maybe radically remade by man.  It’s well underway.

Re-engineering biology to make food, fuel, medicine.  Seeds that grow into houses.  Stronger, smarter humans.  Maybe even bring back the dead.  The extinct

My guest today has written about finding an “extremely adventurous” woman to give birth to a Neanderthal.  And he’s not kidding.

This hour, On Point:  synthetic biology creating new and very old life.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, and professor of health sciences and technology at Harvard and MIT. Co-author of “Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves.” (@geochurch)

Arthur Caplan, head of the division of bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City. (@arthurcaplan)

Jay Keasling, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at UC Berkeley. Director of the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center. (@jaykeasling)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Boston Herald “The headline flying across the Internet yesterday seemed too outlandish to be true: ‘Wanted: “Adventurous woman” to give birth to Neanderthal man — Harvard professor seeks mother for cloned cave baby,’ Britain’s Daily Mail exulted. And Harvard University geneticist George M. Church, the scientist at the center of the viral vortex, says it was: Way too outlandish, and entirely untrue.”

ABC News “Caplan said there’s also insufficient knowledge about whether Neanderthals would be too aggressive to flourish in society or whether they would die of an extreme unforeseen allergy. He compared the latter to the way Europeans accidentally killed the Native Americans by giving them small pox.”

Science News “Place an order with Ginkgo BioWorks and its researchers will make an organism to do whatever you want. Need to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere? They can engineer the insides of a bacterium to do just that. Want clean, biologically based fuels to replace petroleum taken from the ground? Company scientists will design a microbe to poop those out.”

Excerpt from “Regenesis”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Oct 31, 2014
Nurse Kaci Hickox, right, and her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur are followed by a Maine State Trooper as they ride bikes on a trail near her home in Fort Kent, Maine, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014.  (AP)

Quarantines and Ebola. An exploding rocket. Apple’s CEO comes out. Hawaiian lava flows. Midterms in the home stretch. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Oct 31, 2014
Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) and Sauncho Smilax (Beninico del Toro) share a drink in a scene from the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson film, "Inherent Vice," an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name. (Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment)

From “Interstellar” to “Into the Woods.” The biggest and best movies of the fall and holiday seasons. What to see, what to skip.

RECENT
SHOWS
Oct 31, 2014
Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) and Sauncho Smilax (Beninico del Toro) share a drink in a scene from the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson film, "Inherent Vice," an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name. (Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment)

From “Interstellar” to “Into the Woods.” The biggest and best movies of the fall and holiday seasons. What to see, what to skip.

 
Oct 31, 2014
Nurse Kaci Hickox, right, and her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur are followed by a Maine State Trooper as they ride bikes on a trail near her home in Fort Kent, Maine, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014.  (AP)

Quarantines and Ebola. An exploding rocket. Apple’s CEO comes out. Hawaiian lava flows. Midterms in the home stretch. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
The Explicast, Episode Three: What Is The Dow Jones Industrial Average?
Friday, Oct 31, 2014

We dig in to that all-important, all-confusing daily stock notice: the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: October 31, 2014
Friday, Oct 31, 2014

We tumble for ya, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Tuco the Massachusetts K-9 Unit puppy in training.

More »
1 Comment
 
Awards Season 2014: The Movies Worth Your Time
Friday, Oct 31, 2014

What movies should you watch before 2014 comes to a close? Our critics offer their picks for the movies of the season right here.

More »
Comment