With only three living individuals left on this planet, the northern white rhinoceros could be considered doomed for extinction. But now researchers have proposed a road map for preserving such endangered species through techniques that use stem cells and assisted reproduction technology.
Using the three living animals, stored tissue samples, cell lines, and sperm from these and already deceased rhinos, investigators plan to conduct research that will involve the development of stem cell technologies, collection/generation of eggs and sperm, in vitro embryo production, embryo transfer into surrogate mothers, pregnancy maintenance, and rearing of offspring. The ultimate goal, possibly several decades in the future, is to establish viable, self-sustaining northern white rhinoceros populations. The strategy, which is described in a Zoo Biology article, might also be applicable to other mammals on the brink of extinction.
"I am glad that we found so many competent supporters in the scientific community who believe in the application of advanced cellular and reproductive technologies for the genetic rescue of the northern white rhinoceros. Now we have to demonstrate that this novel strategy can make a difference," said co-senior author Dr. Thomas Hildebrandt.