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Our Expert Voices conversation on de-extinction.

As an anthropologist who studies extinct populations of human relatives, when I hear de-extinction, I think of Neanderthals.

Neanderthals became extinct around 30,000 years ago. A few scientists have talked about using technology to make a Neanderthal child – at one point, the geneticist George Church joked that he just needed "an adventurous female human" to make a go of it.

I'm not in favor of making Neanderthal babies. But babies are just the final step of a research process where every other step may prove tremendously valuable. Scientists are already studying the effects of Neanderthal genes within human tissues, and they have already engineered mice with Neanderthal genes. Soon, there will be Neanderthal cell lines, tissues and organs.

What we can learn: Throughout the history of human genetics, we have relied on natural experiments — the differences that evolution has built into human populations—to learn about how our genes work. The evolution of Neanderthals took them down a different path than any living human population. Studying Neanderthal cells and tissues will help us to understand how human genes work.

Bottom line: De-extinction of Neanderthals — at least in the lab — may just give us new targets for drugs or other treatments to help humans today.

Other voices in the conversation:

Joseph Bennett, biologist, Carleton University: Keep animals from going extinct in the first place

Molly Hardesty-Moore, ecologist, University of California, Santa Barbara: Don't forget an extinct creature's ecology

Ben J. Novak, biologist, The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback: De-extinction is like any other conservation program

Alejandro Camacho, legal scholar, University of California, Irvine: Wildlife laws aren't ready for the return of extinct species

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Shooting at Michigan high school leaves 3 dead, 8 wounded

Police cars restrict access to Oxford High School following the shooting in Oxford, Michigan, on Tuesday. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

A 15-year-old sophomore was arrested after a shooting at a Michigan high school that left three people dead and eight others wounded Wednesday, according to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

The latest: Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said at a briefing Tuesday night that the suspect's father had on Friday bought the 9mm Sig Sauer pistol investigators believe was used in the shooting at Oxford High School. Authorities released the names of the victims late Tuesday.

City Council member Andre Dickens wins Atlanta mayoral race

Atlanta Mayor-elect Andre Dickens in Atlanta, Georgia, late Tuesday. Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

City Council member Andre Dickens won a runoff election Tuesday to become Atlanta's next mayor, soundly beating the council's president Felicia Moore.

The big picture: Dickens was just a few months ago considered to have an outside chance of replacing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who announced in May that she wouldn't seek a second term.

UN report: Pandemic set to cost global tourism $2 trillion in 2021

A tourist in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Nov. 25. Photo:Chesnot/Getty Images

A new United Nations report warns that global tourism will see only modest revenue gains in 2021 after last year's historic losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: Tourism revenues in 2020 fell by more than half from the previous year — a significant blow to the global economy, according to analysis by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).