January 15, 2021

«We will not be able to recreate extinct species»

«We will not be able to recreate extinct species»


Svante Pääbo, one of the founders of paleogenetics, brings with it the old fantasy of recovering past lives, of bringing animals and plants to our time that were no longer part of the landscape of nature decades ago. In Oviedo, where will receive this Friday the Princess of Asturias Award for Scientific and Technical Research, did not close any doors to the imagination, to those who still dream of different Jurassic parks, but, yes, showed some skepticism about the ability of science to one day translate certain literary utopias into reality. "I do not think we can ever recreate complete species. Because it is very difficult to achieve the engineering of stem cells, although in the future we could achieve it. But there are other issues. We know that a third of the human genome is repetitive, but of the fossils it is degraded and we know if it comes from this part or from the other. You can resort to statistics, but it is already clear that we do not know all aspects of the genome and we can never fully know them. And for humans it seems ethically impossible to recreate a complete man to solve a scientific curiosity or tell a teenager why he exists. We will not be able to recreate extinct species. If we had cells intact, yes. But not from the archaeological point of view. " Pääbo, who is working on the Neanderthal genome and who has been at the Atapuerca site to investigate his ancestors, acknowledged that he does not know at this moment where the limits of science lie to go back in time and find out the genetic aspects of living beings: "I do not know. Before I thought we could not go beyond 10,000 years old, but now we are investigating around 400,000 years or even 700,000 when it comes to the horse. I do not know if we will go over a million years. Above all it is a matter of technology. But I do not think we're going to seven million, we will not reach the dinosaurs or the autralophitecus. " On the extinction of the Neanderthals, Pääbo, who commented that he "would like to see more scientists in political institutions," said that "we know that they disappear when modern man arrives, but we have proof that for 60,000 years, he lived with Homo Sapiens in the Middle East. We still can not infer what happened. But they did not become extinct at all. Part of its genome is in us and this can not say things about us. "

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