Test-Tube Babies: Last Ditch Effort to Save Rare White Rhinos

Is there anything that can save the rare white rhino from dying off?  In a last-ditch effort scientists are attempting to do just that by creating “test-tube rhinos”.

Scientists create ‘test-tube rhino’ in hopes of saving dying species

(CNN) Scientists have used in-vitro fertilization techniques to develop hybrid rhino embryos — “test-tube rhinos” — which could help save the endangered northern white rhinoceros species, according to a new study.

white rhino

The team was also able to extract stem cell lines from southern white rhino embryos, a closely related subspecies to northern white rhinos, which could be used to make reproductive cells such as eggs and sperm to create embryos.
These techniques could become a valuable tool in the conservation of rhino populations, according to the research published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications
The northern white rhinoceros is the most endangered mammal in the world. Sudan, the northern white rhino’s last male — once called the “most eligible bachelor in the world” by the dating app Tinder — died in March. That leaves only two females, Najin and Fatu, to represent the subspecies.
Over the past two decades, attempts at establishing a sustainable northern white rhino population — including natural breeding programs as well as artificial insemination — have been unsuccessful…
Recent efforts to repopulate the northern white rhino have been hamstrung by the fact that both Najin and Fatu are infertile, according to the study.
However, scientists believed that assisted reproduction technologies used on equines could also be transferred to northern white rhinos as a way boosting their reproductive capacity, the study says.
Among horses, assisted reproduction technologies have resulted in pregnancy 50% of the time…
Using similar techniques, the scientists were able to fertilize southern white rhinoceros eggs taken from different females in European zoos with previously frozen northern white rhinoceros sperm, creating hybrid embryos. The procedure had never been attempted among northern and southern white rhinos, according to the study.
The embryos have been frozen for possible implantation…READ MORE

User-Friendly Summary of Research:

Journal reference:  Hildebrandt, T., et al., Embryos and embryonic stem cells from the white rhinoceros, Nature Communications, volume 9, Article number: 2589 (2018). DOI: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-04959-2