A scientist’s comments on the possibility of cloning a Neanderthal were definitely lost in translation last week, when he was quoted as saying he was looking for an “adventurous woman” to give birth to a cloned Neanderthal baby.

George Church, a professor at Harvard Medical School, told German magazine Der Spiegel that he believed it was possible a cloned Neanderthal baby could be born during his lifetime, but that it would depend on a “hell of a lot of things”. When questioned by the interviewer on a line in his book stating an “extremely adventurous female human” would need to carry the cloned foetus, he clarified: “However, the prerequisite would, of course, be that human cloning is acceptable to society.”

So, it seems clear that what Professor Church was saying was that the science to clone an extinct race of humans could soon exist and it might then be theoretically possible to create one. Unfortunately, his sentiments were wildly lost in translation as a result of being translated from English to German and then back to English.

Soon after his interview was published, the internet was alight with stories and comments about what they portrayed as a mad scientist cloning a Neanderthal in his lab. On January 20th, the Daily Mail ran the story under the headline: “Wanted: ‘Adventurous woman’ to give birth to Neanderthal man – Harvard processor seeks mother for cloned cave baby.” In the article, the author wrote: “This incredible scenario is the plan of one of the world’s leading geneticists, who is seeking a volunteer to help bring man’s long-extinct close relative back to life.”

Professor Church soon found himself inundated with calls from journalists, asking him to clarify whether he was indeed planning to resurrect an extinct species. Yet he tells the Boston Herald that the error comes down to bad translation skills. He clarifies that he is not endorsing cloning Neanderthals, but talking about the ethics of this before the time comes when it can be done.

So, just another example of news getting lost in translation – and it seems we have a while to wait before we’re queuing alongside cavemen at the supermarket.