Test Tube Embryo Transfer Could Bring NearExtinct Rhinos Back to Life

first_img Scientists in Europe successfully transferred a test-tube rhinoceros embryo back into a female.The operation is part of a larger effort to repopulate the near-extinct northern white rhino by fertilizing eggs from the species’ only two remaining animals—both females who can’t bear children.The world’s last male northern white rhinoceros passed away in March 2018: Sudan, 45, was being treated for age-related health issues and a series of infections. He died at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where he lived under 24-hour armed surveillance for almost a decade.The bull’s death left only his offspring—daughter Najin and granddaughter Fatu—to maintain and advance the species.They can’t do it alone, though: An international team of experts, led by Germany’s Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), is pursuing two approaches to save the species.The first requires egg cells be harvested from Najin and Fatu and exposed to the late Sudan’s sperm (which has been stored in liquid nitrogen). The embryo, obtained by in-vitro fertilization, was transferred into the uterus of a southern white rhinoceros in late May.Despite successful growth in the surrogate mother, scientists believe the embryo was not able to implant itself in the uterine lining. Additional embryo transfers will be carried out in the near future. Hopefully one of those will stick.“The BioRescue research project can play an important role in the conservation of species diversity because it significantly advances existing approaches for species conservation,” Leibniz-IZW project leader Thomas Hildebrandt said in a statement.If that doesn’t work, there’s always plan B: convert skin cells into pluripotent stem cells (capable of producing any cell or tissue the body needs to repair itself), then mature them into primordial germ cells (PGC), which can generate reproductive gametes (sperm or oocytes).The final result, according to Leibniz-IZW, will be a “self-sustaining, genetically healthy population” of northern white rhinoceroses that can survive in the wild.“Due to the small number of eggs and sperm available, the stem cell approach is important in order to increase the genetic variability of the population,” the Institute said in a press release.Consumer demand in China and Vietnam has escalated illegal hunting over the past 10 years; since 2013, South Africa lost more than 1,000 rhinos each year to poachers, who sell the horns for use in purported health tonics and carvings.Sudan served as a global ambassador for his species, appearing in campaigns and public service announcements, and making appearances alongside public figures like pro basketball player Yao Ming.“Thanks to the impressive combination of different research approaches and the great dedication shown by those involved,” according to Michael Meister, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research, “there is now both the possibility and the hope that we will be able to preserve critically endangered species such as the northern white rhinoceros.”In April, a Greater One Horned Indian Rhinoceros was born at Florida’s Zoo Miami—the first successful birth of this species as a result of induced ovulation and artificial insemination.The Greater One Horned Indian Rhino is considered a highly vulnerable species: fewer than 3,000 are left in the wilds of India and Nepal.More on Geek.com:Tam, Malaysia’s Last Male Sumatran Rhino, DiesRhino Poacher Reportedly Killed by Elephant, Eaten by LionsScientists Capture Rare Photos of the World’s Most Endangered Rhino Stay on target Zoo Officials Slam Visitors for Carving Names on Rhino’s Back’Historic’: Artificially Conceived Southern White Rhino Born at SD Zoo last_img read more