Thursday, July 5, 2018 at 11:26AM
Drew Wolfe

Scientists Hope Lab-Grown Embryos Can Save Rhino Species From Extinction

"Rhino embryos created in a lab are raising hopes that high-tech assisted reproduction may help save the northern white rhino, the most endangered mammal in the world."

"Only two of these rhinos are still alive, both females living in a sanctuary in Kenya and protected around the clock by armed guards."

"The last male, a rhino named Sudan, died in March. But before the males died off, wildlife experts collected and froze sperm. Now, in the journal Nature Communicationsscientists say they successfully have used this stored sperm to fertilize eggs taken from a closely related subspecies, the southern white rhinoceros."

"The resulting hybrid embryos started to develop in a lab dish. Two were frozen for later implantation into a surrogate rhino, although the researchers note in their paper that 'the embryo transfer procedure has yet to be developed and validated in rhinoceroses.'"

"Still, the researchers are hopeful that once they get this working with hybrid embryos, they can use the same techniques to produce pure northern white rhino embryos."

"To make those, they'll need eggs from the two remaining northern white rhinos. Jan Stejskal, of the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic — where rhinos Najin and Fatu were born — says the team has requested permission to obtain the eggs, 'but it's not granted yet.' Still, he hopes the research team can go to Kenya to collect them by the end of the year."


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