Rhino embryos made in lab

Rhino embryos made in lab

However, they consider the experiment to have been a success as it is the first northern-southern white rhino hybrid embryo created by in vitro fertilization to reach the blastocyst stage with a complex cell structure.

There may only be two female northern white rhinos left alive, but there is still hope the "doomed" species could come back from the brink of extinction. Now, only two members of the species remain-a 28-year-old female named Najin and her 18-year-old daughter Fatu, both of whom are housed at a Kenyan animal conservancy under constant armed guard.

"Our results indicate that ART (assisted reproduction techniques) could be a viable strategy to rescue genes from the iconic, nearly extinct, northern white rhinoceros", the team wrote in the journal Nature Communications. For now, these early embryos, called blastocysts, have been frozen.

An alternative strategy to resurrection would be to secure a safe habitat in the former northern white rhino's range of central East Africa, populate it with southern white rhino and let natural selection run its course.

There are concerns that because only two northern white rhinos remain it will create a limited gene pool and future rhinos will be at risk for a wide array of health problems linked to inbreeding and lack of genetic diversity.

However, with sperm available from just four male Northern White Rhinos, the scientists say this method alone won't be enough to restart a genetically diverse, self-sustaining population.

To my mind, the time to save the northern white rhino has passed. The good news, Hildebrandt tells the New York Times' Yin, is that researchers have a genetically diverse collection of cells to draw from and have already created 12 of these "reprogrammed" cells (albeit no egg or sperm cells).

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There are 21 000 southern white rhinos, and they will be used as a surrogate mother. They are now being frozen and later will be implanted into a surrogate mother that will give birth to a hybrid offspring.

"In the meantime, we will carry on taking the best possible care of Fatu and Najin and the herd of southern whites specifically selected to one day, hopefully, become surrogates for northern white rhinos", Ol Pejeta said in a statement.

So scientists have used in vitro fertilisation to create embryos, the article in Nature Communications states. Even the eggs of elderly or infertile SWR have produced embryos successfully. "Previous attempts to establish a managed breeding program for this sub-species failed".

But genes from the northern white rhinos might live on.

But now, scientists have developed new assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) which could provide the beleaguered species with a lifeline. The embryonic stem cell lines obtained in this study have now been transferred to Dr Diecke's lab, as they will serve as a blueprint to differentiate iPS cells into germ cells and eventually gametes.

Terri Roth and William Swanson of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, in a comment on the study, said ART alone can not save a species from extinction.

Cesare Galli, whose Italy-based company Avantea has lengthy experience with the artificial reproduction of horses, said recent advances in stem cell technology could help the rhino preservation effort. We can not afford to adopt a cavalier attitude toward extinction, as though animals were something to bring back at our leisure, he said.

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