Stem-cell engineering could save Rhinos Reuters

A breakthrough in stem-cell engineering by a group of scientists at San Diego Zoo, could save many endangered species, including the critically endangered northern white rhinoceros.

Using skin samples conserved in 1972, Jeanne Loring and her colleagues at Scripps, have created stem cells for both the northern white rhinoceros and the endangered drill primate related to the baboon and mandrill, the San Diego reader reported.

By getting the stem cells to revert to earlier stage of its developments using the modern biological process of re-programming; the study hopes that this will lead to the manipulation of eggs and sperm that can be used in the fertilization process of live eggs creating a type of Test tube baby. According to the BBC a Japanese team reported turning mouse stem cells into sperm.

According to Oliver Ryder, the director of genetics at the San Diego Zoo Institute the research isn't ideal as a primary method of protected endangered species saying that the best way to manage extinctions is to preserve species and habitats in the first place.

Stem cell technology provides some level of hope that they won't have to become extinct even though they've been completely eliminated from their habitats. I think that if humankind wants to save this species, we're going to have to develop new methodologies, he said commenting on the case of the northern white rhinos.

Researchers of the study have reported that the initial use of the stem-cell technology is likely to be medicinal, replacing diseased cells that lead to diabetes, the BBC reported. These studies are underway for human health issues including heart problems, blindness and spinal injuries.

Meanwhile other research teams have started looking into cloning as a means of rescuing endangered species but the team at San Diego Zoo believes that new embryos will be a much more effective method, saying the frequency for success in cloning method has been relatively low.