Using in vitro fertilization (IVF), the researchers extracted sperm that had previously been frozen from NWR males and implanted it into eggs from the SWR to create the hybrid embryos.
Researchers have discovered new leads in stem cell research, by breeding white rhinos artificially using lab-grown embryos, in a bid to stop a complete wipe out of the endangered white rhino species. The first rhino embryos which have been created in a test tube can help save the rhinos by high-tech assisted reproduction.
When Sudan, the last surviving male northern white rhino in the world, died in Kenya in March 2018, the species was as good as extinct. However, considering the fact that there are only two female northern white rhinos left, acquisition of eggs would be challenging and the produced embryos will need to be frozen until the setting up of a surrogate. An global team of researchers successfully managed to adapt reproduction techniques used in horses to the special circumstances of rhino species, opening up the potential to bring back NWR from the brink of extinction. And third, that the resulting embryos can be frozen without damage.
An alternative strategy to resurrection would be to secure a safe habitat in the former northern white rhino's range of central East Africa, populate it with southern white rhino and let natural selection run its course.
Researchers also plan to harvest eggs from the two living female NWRs.
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In the journal Nature Communications, Prof Thomas Hildebrandt, from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, and his worldwide team of colleagues, described the complexities of safely extracting an egg, or oocyte, from a two-tonne female rhino.
Eventually, the fertilized cells would be implanted into a southern white rhino surrogate, according to the scientists. The embryos reached the blastocyst stage-a relatively developed stage which boosts the chances of pregnancy after transplantation.
Although the hybrid embryos mark a promising first step in restoring the southern rhinos' northern counterpart, scientists warn that the birth of a hybrid calf-already an ambitious goal- will not be enough to ensure the species' survival.
Researchers published their initial results in the journal of Nature Communications. First, that rhino eggs can be captured from live females.
I am concerned that new technologies, such as the creation of these hybrid rhino embryos, are distracting us from on-the-ground conservation and dealing with the root causes of endangerment.
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Scientists raise hybrid embryos to save northern white rhino.
The last hopes were pinned on four white rhinos.
Thanks to existing stem cell technology, they should be able to create what scientists call gametes. Once they have the eggs, they can begin the process of bringing a species back from the very brink of extinction. Dr. Roth says that poaching is a significant threat to the rhino species.
Terri Roth, director of the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, however, sees tech-laded reproduction as "highly speculative" and an indication that all other conservation efforts have failed.
"What we've done is very similar to what's done to couples with fertility problems", Galli said.
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"They have formally said they will give us the necessary support", he said.