Can genetics save the northern white rhino?

Can genetics save the northern white rhino?

Can genetics save the northern white rhino?

In order to create a hybrid embryo, the team of scientists used an adapted technique of artificial insemination of horses.

Only two of the animals remain alive, protected around the clock by armed guards on a Kenyan conservation park, and both are female.

A team of scientists designed a hybrid embryo with the DNA of the almost extinct northern white rhino. Females were transported from the zoo to Kenya, where they now live under round the clock protection.

"If we have the technologies to save them, then why wouldn't we try?" said Jan Stejskal, director of the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, where Najin and Fatu were born.

With only two captive females remaining, the Northern White Rhino is functionally extinct.

The key question of whether scientists can produce pure northern white rhino embryos using this technique remains unanswered.

Several months later, researchers have extracted a total of 79 reproductive cells (oocytes) from 11 females of southern white rhinos species.

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However, even if the implantation of clean embryos in future will result in the appearance of healthy offspring, the Northern white Rhino is facing another big problem: lack of genetic diversity required for healthy populations.

"In our lab we were able to develop procedures to mature the oocytes, fertilise them by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and culture them".

These achievements raise the possibility that a hybrid rhino, which preserves numerous genes of the northern white rhino, could be bred in future.

It's a huge breakthrough for the regeneration of the northern white rhinos.

Keeper Zachariah Mutai attends to Fatu in the pen where she is kept for observation, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia county in Kenya. So far, they have generated 12 rhino stem cell lines, Hildebrandt said.

For rhinoceroses, this is the first case when the blastocyst, the early stage of embryo development, has been achieved at the laboratory.

The team managed to produce hybrid embryos from Southern White Rhino eggs and Northern White Rhino sperm. These cells are adult cells, such as blood or skin cells, that are reprogrammed to act like stem cells. Scientists have succeeded in creating stem cells from embryos rhinoceros the southern white Rhino.

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Now frozen, these "have a very high chance to establish a pregnancy once implanted into a surrogate mother", said Hildebrandt.

Over the decades, the population of northern white rhino kept declining due to extreme poaching. Restoration ecologists have similarly replaced extinct giant tortoises with related species in a process called taxon substitution.

There have been previous attempts by conservation scientists to save the rhino species. The method is also used in human reproductive medicine.

"Many people working in conservation are strongly against using biotechnologies, which seems insane, because if you have the technology, why not use it for the good?" he said. "We hope that the current achievement will help us to convince more people as well as public authorities that this new approach is feasible and worth supporting", Steven Seet, Head of Press & Communications at the Leibniz - IZW.

Roth doesn't believe that one size will fit all. "We didn't have many options so we had to be realistic", he said.

"It's very unfortunate that we find ourselves in this situation". "We should come at it with everything we've got", Roth said.

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