Northern white rhino could be saved from extinction using embryos

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Researchers have created the first-ever in-vitro rhino embryos in hopes that they can save the species from extinction. Second, that they can be fertilised using IVF and developed to the "blastocyst" early embryonic stage (ready for transfer to a surrogate female) - and that this can be done as a hybrid of southern and northern rhino.

In addition to experimenting with the hybrid and northern embryos, scientists are working to turn samples of the rhinos' skin cells into egg and sperm cells. The successful implantation was a first involving an embryo from a test tube implanted into a rhino. Pictured, Fatu, one of the only two remaining female northern white rhino, runs in her paddock on March 20, 2018 at the ol-Pejeta conservancy in Nanyuki, north of capital Nairobi.

Using assisted reproductive techniques in wild species of animals have not worked as well as they have in domesticated animals such as horses and cattle, they pointed out. The last male, named Sudan, died this past March.

FULLY NWR. The researchers also hope to extract eggs from the two living NWRs to create embryos that are 100 percent NWR. Eggs and sperm from northern white rhino are in short supply, due to the rarity of the subspecies. "Now we are well prepared to go to Kenya and collect [eggs] from the last two [northern white rhino] females in order to produce pure [early embryos] where both eggs and sperm are from [northern white rhino]", Hildebrandt said.

However, with sperm available from just four male Northern White Rhinos, the scientists say this method alone won't be enough to restart a genetically diverse, self-sustaining population. Thanks to the continued dedication from scientists, conservationists and philanthropists across the world however, the miracle of their renaissance may now actually become a reality. They have a very high chance to establish a pregnancy once implanted into a surrogate mother.

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Northern white rhinos were driven to extinction by poaching and war in the countries they once roamed - Chad, Sudan, Uganda, Congo and Central African Republic.

Eventually, the fertilized cells would be implanted into a southern white rhino surrogate, according to the scientists.

Experts had anxious resurrecting the subspecies using frozen cells could create a heavily inbred population.

The combination of stem cell research with newly developed artificial insemination technology provides scientists with a way to save critically endangered mammalian species. Two females remain in captivity, but they are infertile.

"Our results are solid, reproducible and very promising".

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The idea that assisted reproductive technology might play a role in species conservation has been around since the 1970s.

Northern white rhinoceroses are not evolutionary failures.

Writing in the journal Nature Communications, researchers said they have succeeded in creating embryos using frozen northern white rhino sperm and eggs from a southern white rhino.

The rhino's disappearance has left a void in the region's ecosystem that could have significant impacts in the future, Hildebrandt said.

If you had asked Thomas Hildebrandt a decade ago whether the northern white rhinoceros could be saved, his answer would have been grim.

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Professor Renfree says the stem cells could hold the key to the survival of the rhinos, and other endangered species. "But we are extremely confident we can get the [eggs] out".

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