News World Scientists hope test-tube embryos can save near-extinct white rhino

Scientists hope test-tube embryos can save near-extinct white rhino

Scientists have created hybrid embryos from the sperm of near-extinct northern white rhinoceroses in the laboratory, hoping they can ultimately help save the species.

The northern white rhino is the world’s most endangered mammal, and its only two living members are a mother and daughter, living in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Scientists did, however, manage to collect around 300 millilitres of semen from the last four bull rhinos, which they say is a large quantity, albeit too low-quality for insemination.

Having used some of this to fertilise eggs in vitro from the closest relative – the southern white rhino – they hope to use the same techniques to create an embryo of a pure northern white rhino with eggs harvested from the two females. This could then be implanted into a surrogate to gestate.

“Within three years we hope to have the first (northern white) rhino calf born,” said Thomas Hildebrandt of Germany’s Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, who co-led the work. The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications on Wednesday.

The low-grade sperm have to be activated with a lab culture so that they can be used in an IVF technique known as intracytoplasmic injection.

The hybrid embryos have developed enough for implantation, and have now been frozen while scientists seek potential surrogate southern white rhino females to carry them to term.

Cesare Galli of the Italian animal assisted reproduction firm Avantea, who worked with Hildebrandt, said there had originally been strong opposition from some conservationists to “interfering in nature” by using IVF or other lab techniques to save the northern white rhino.

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

Hildebrandt argued that using biotechnology was not unnatural, and would simply correct a change in the ecosystem created by the human hunting of rhinos.

“The northern white rhino did not fail evolution, it failed because it was not bullet-proof. It was slaughtered,” he said.

“It caused a disbalance in the ecosystem … and we have the tools in our hands to correct that.”

Top Stories

127 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday

The Health Ministry announced 127 new COVID-19 cases on 21 October, out of 3,309 laboratory tests, taking confirmed infections to 2, 966. The break-down of...

Non-reversible damage to the sight of five patients operated for cataract

The damage to the sight of five out of the eight patients who were operated for cataract and presented serious complications due to infection...

Committee to prepare list of animals for pet shops; reactions

For the first time in Cyprus a list will be prepared with the animals that can be sold in pet shops, however, the issue...

Medical Association on Cyprus’ epidemiological situation

The Cyprus Medical Association is once again asking the public and businesses to make sure not to violate any protocols and to dutifully respect...

15-year-old missing since 20 October (PHOTO)

Police are looking for 15-year-old Antzel Ioannou, who has been reported missing from her place of residence in Nicosia since yesterday, 20 October. Ioannou is...

Taste

Squash soup

Ingredients: 1 kg pumpkin, cut into small cubes, approximately 5 cups 2 medium (400g) sweet potatoes, cut into cubes, approximately 2 ½ cups 1 chopped leek, only...

Mezedes

No visit to Cyprus is complete without enjoying the traditional meal of many small dishes known as ‘meze’. This large feast, which has been a...

Prawns with fried cheese, barley shaped pasta

Put the barley shaped pasta into a small pan with salted water, bring to a boil and when tender, drain. Peal the prawns leaving...

Salmon and shrimp sheftalies

Mix all ingredients for tabbouli in a bowl and keep to one side so flavours can combine. Prepare the sheftalies: wash and soak the casing...