Embryo breakthrough 'could save northern white rhino'

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The hybrid embryos were created with frozen sperm from dead northern white rhino males and the eggs of southern white females, a closely-related species with a much healthier population count.

The world's last male northern white rhino, Sudan, is survived by just two females - his daughter Najin and granddaughter Fatu.

Earlier this year, the rather sad news was announced that the last male northern white rhino had died.

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. No northern white rhinos remain in the wild. Scientists say they're several steps closer to perfecting a method for stopping the extinction of northern white rhinos.

"Assisted reproductive technologies are very expensive and their success is far from guaranteed".

An global 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 authors performed 18 of these procedures on southern white rhinos in zoos across Europe, resulting in the collection of 83 eggs.

Overall, of the 13 oocytes injected with northern white rhino sperm, six cleaved and four developed into blastocysts.

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Speaking about the near extinction of the northern white rhino species, Dr Hildebrandt said: "The northern white rhino didn't fail in evolution, it failed because it was not bulletproof". They were all frozen and, as scientists hope, will soon be implanted into the body of the surrogate mothers from the number of southern white rhinos. The next step will need to take the eggs of the two last females of the Northern white Rhino and create a clean embryos of the Northern white Rhino.

An global team of scientists and zoologists from Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic managed to artificially develop an embryo of the northern white rhinos, virtually extinct mammals with no living male existent, a Czech zoo said Wednesday in a statement. These cells are adult cells, such as blood or skin cells, that are reprogrammed to act like stem cells. These are mature sexual reproduction cells, like a sperm or egg, that join to create a zygote, or fertilized egg cell. The hope is that these hybrid embryos will be implanted into surrogate southern white rhino females in the coming months.

However, because of the complexity around creating pure northern white rhino embryos, Galli estimates that it will take 10 years to accomplish.

Many scientists see these technologies as a valuable tool in the repopulation of disappearing species. We are witnessing the development of a method that can help to compensate the negative impact of humans on nature.

Yet the use of assisted reproduction for wildlife conservation is still rare, according to a paper co-authored by Roth, having been met with a lot of resistance from within the animal conservation community.

"Many people working in the conservation area are very against using biotechnology", he said.

Hildebrandt is cognizant of the risks associated with the project, but he remains confident in its value for rhino preservation efforts-particularly if fertilization occurs in conjunction with anti-poaching initiatives.

"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.

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