Breakthrough to rescue the Northern White Rhino from extinction

Breakthrough to rescue the Northern White Rhino from extinction

An international team of scientists has successfully created hybrid embryos to save the Northern White Rhino (NWR). When the last living male of the species died in March this year, the species became functionally extinct.

However, the team has successfully created an embryo using a Southern White Rhino (SWR) egg and NWR sperm through assisted reproduction techniques. The team adapted techniques used in artificial reproduction for horses.

Professor Thomas Hildebrandt, Head of the Department of Reproduction Management at the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in Berlin explained that, following this early success, the next step would be to attempt a similar process using an egg from one of the last two remaining NWR females. The embryos will be carried by surrogate SWRs as the only two remaining NWR are both unfit for pregnancy.

The scientists are also working to ensure genetic diversity amongst the species. They are using stem cell research to investigate the possibility of creating embryos from cells that have been stored after being harvested from other NWRs before they died.

Combining stem cell research with artificial reproduction techniques could provide a blueprint to saving other endangered species.

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