Scientists from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic decided to clone an endangered northern white rhino to save it from extinction. In this article we have talked about “Extinct Northern White Rhino Clone.“
Over the past 30 years, researchers have collected a sufficient amount of DNA material of these species to try cloning them. The genetic diversity of these animals is much wider than of any other endangered species, and the experts managed to find a significant number of subspecies.
At the beginning of 2018, there was only one male of the northern white rhinoceros named Sudan. However, he died in March. As for now, only two females are left, so the natural survival of the species is impossible.
Scientists from the German Leibniz Institute for the Study of Zoos and Wildlife managed to grow a germ in the test tube of northern white rhinoceros.
The population of related southern white rhinos is about 21,000 animals. A team of scientists from many countries decided to save the species. The genetic material was collected before Sudan’s death, and the female egg of the southern white rhinoceros for fertilization by an artificial method was used. As a result, they first managed to grow a blastocyst of a rhinoceros in a test tube. It is an early stage of development of the embryo.
The last male rhinos, whose genetic material was preserved, were old animals, and their semen was initially in very poor condition. Moreover, scientists discovered that their reproductive cells were defective and could not penetrate into eggs themselves.
Technologies created by Italian biologists for artificial insemination of horses helped them. With their help, Hildebrandt and his team extracted the eggs of southern white rhinoceroses from the bodies of several females and put nuclei of spermatozoa into their bodies.
The experiments had been failing for two years. Last year, the right combination to perform the technique was found. The fusion of germ cells and the formation of a blastocyst became possible.
Professor Thomas Hildebrandt believes that a fertilized egg will be transplanted into a body of the surrogate mother. The technique had been tested on horses many times. Scientists are going to take eggs from the last females of the northern white rhinoceros to create a “genetically pure” embryo.
Hildebrandt and his team created four hybrid embryos of the northern white rhinoceros – two males and two females. All of them were frozen, and the scientists are going to implant them in the body of surrogate mothers from the southern white rhinoceroses.
If these experiments succeed, scientists will extract the eggs from the body of the last two representatives of this subspecies, fertilize them and try to extract embryonic stem cells from them.
In 1960, the population of northern white rhinos totaled 2,250 individuals. However, after 20 years, only 15 animals survived. Poachers are responsible for it: this animal’s horn is considered healing in many African cultures and is highly valued on the black market. The northern white rhino is the second largest land animal after the elephant.
The emergence of new technologies for DNA sequencing, cloning, and reprogramming of cells have opened up new opportunities for rescuing already extinct or endangered species of animals. As scientists hope, tissue samples of such animals will let ecologists “resurrect” these species and widen their populations.