Northern white rhino 'could be saved from extinction'

Northern white rhino 'could be saved from extinction'”

Scientists have raised hopes that the near-extinct northern white rhinos can be saved by the hybrid embryos from the frozen sperm of dead males.

An worldwide team of researchers using assisted reproductive technologies (ART) has combined eggs from the southern white rhino (SWR) with the cryopreserved sperm of a northern white rhino to create viable embryos and embryonic stem cells.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications on Wednesday.

In vitro fertilization is used in the cattle industry to breed more robust herds, and a Cape buffalo was conceived through IVF for the first time in 2016. (They now reside in a 700-acre enclosure in Kenya, where they are protected 24 hours a day by armed guards.) "I don't want to witness the disappearance of these animals right before our eyes just because we didn't care enough to do something about it". The pair is both female and both are infertile.

This lab achievement is a very early step towards the much longer-term goal of resurrecting a population of full-blooded northern white rhinos, said Jan Stejskal, director of global projects at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic and an author of the paper, in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Alternatively, if scientists are allowed to take eggs from the two living northern white rhinos, a pure-bred calf could be born.

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

The NWR can only reproduce in the zoos very slowly.

Following the success of this trial, the team led by Thomas Hildebrandt has frozen the hybrid embryos for possible implantation in females of the southern white rhino species in the future. Female southern white rhinos will act as surrogate mothers.

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.

But Mr Hildebrandt stood by the effort, saying: "The northern white rhino didn't fail in evolution. They have a very high chance to establish a pregnancy once implanted into a surrogate mother", Hildebrandt said in a statement.

Until permission to harvest the eggs is granted, the team will move forward with implanting hybrid embryos into the southern white rhino surrogates. Additionally, the global team established stem cell lines from blastocysts of the SWR with typical features of embryonic stem cells.

To create the lab-grown embryo, researchers used thawed sperm from previously frozen northern white rhino males. These experiments gave hope that biologists will be able to turn such cells into full-fledged embryos of extinct animals.

The last hopes were pinned on four white rhinos, two males and females living in zoos and nurseries in the United States, the Czech Republic and Africa. "These techniques have the potential to help the other endangered rhino species, including the Sumatran rhino and the Indian rhino and and other large mammals such as the Gaur, a large Asian cow that is also at risk of extinction". Oliver Ryder, a conservation geneticist at the San Diego Zoo, collected skin samples from Sudan in 1986 as part of a rhino cell bank. The desperate logic of mixing subspecies and applying assisted reproduction technology is also being discussed regarding the Sumatran rhino.

"The concern in the conservation community is that people will hear this and think, 'We can save the rhinos with science and then become more complacent about the other strategies we have in action now, '" Roth said as cited by CNN. The researchers developed a special tool with a length of 152 cm, to produce oocytes of females transrectal through using anesthesia.

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