One of the more exciting long-range possibilities for the Starchild Skull is the potential for its bone and DNA to be used in research into modern human ailments, and in developing treatments for them. This may sound like science fiction, but this is exactly what has already happened with the recently recovered Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes.
A genome is the entire genetic blueprint of an organism. Since mapping of the human genome was completed in 2003, scientists have been progressively identifying what each specific part of it controls, what genetic illnesses and defects are the result of which parts of which genes not working properly, and what, if anything, can be done to correct or "fix" these broken genes. While actual gene therapy remains controversial, a huge amount can be learned from comparing human genes to other human-like species; potentially a wide range of treatments could one day be developed without the ethical questions raised by gene therapy.
In November 2013, UK researchers announced that they had found DNA-altering retroviruses in the Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes that match similar viruses in the human genome. In an article published in Current Biology they explain how their findings not only improve our understanding of how these retroviruses work to make modern humans sick, but that this discovery is an essential step forward in "the potential exploitation of ERV proteins as cancer and HIV immunotherapy targets". In other words, this research could be used to find better cancer and HIV treatments.
It is impossible to know what, if any, medical advancements, treatments, or even cures may one day result from complete decoding of the Starchild Skull’s DNA, but based on the characteristics of the Skull, experts have speculated on some exciting possibilities. Because its bone is so much stronger than normal human bone, potential osteoporosis treatment is one of the first aspects our researchers hope to investigate. There is also some evidence that it was able to grow multiple sets of teeth, which may lead to developments in dental treatments. One researcher working on the Skull’s DNA even suggested that increased longevity treatments may one day be derived from research on the Skull.
Its unusual DNA may reveal information about our own genes, our evolution, and possibly even ways to treat or prevent some of the many human genetic illnesses and defects. Until further DNA testing is completed it is impossible to know what, if any, genetic issues could be helped in some way by the Starchild, but examples of conditions caused by genetic defects include autism, Down syndrome, Chrone's disease, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s disease, Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, Angelman syndrome, and hundreds of others.
The only way to move forward and start finding out whether any of these possibilities can become reality is to recover and sequence the entire genome. All of this research has to start with finding out exactly what this Skull is and how different it is from modern humans. Every day that the completion of this research is delayed by lack of funding is one day longer before any of these potentially life-changing or even life-saving treatments can be discovered.
The Starchild Project cannot and does not guarantee that any specific treatment for any specific condition will ever be developed from the Starchild Skull, but we are excited by the possibilities, bolstered by the knowledge that so much good is already being done with the Neanderthal genome. We are determined to pursue any potential good the Skull can do for humankind.