Australian scientists use IVF to breed critically endangered northern white rhino

The pre-implantation embryos are known as blastocysts

The pre-implantation embryos are known as blastocysts

An worldwide team of scientists and zoologists from Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic managed to artificially develop an embryo of the northern white rhinos, virtually extinct mammals with no living male existent, a Czech zoo said on Wednesday in a statement.

Hildebrandt, a professor at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, and his colleagues are part of a project that has been stockpiling northern white rhinoceros genetic material for decades.

For fertilization, preserved semen from deceased northern white rhino males was used. It is first documented generation of blastocyst, or pre-implantation rhino embryos, using IVF procedures that had never been previously tried with the species.

Sudan, the last male northern White rhino, died due to age-related illnesses but the continued dedication from conservationists, the species renaissance may become a reality.

Najin (L) and Fatu are the only two northern white rhino known to be alive today - both are infertile females.

The worldwide team believes that assisted reproduction technologies used for other large mammals, including horses and cows, could be transferred to the surviving northern white rhinos as a way of boosting their reproductive capacity.

FULLY NWR. The researchers also hope to extract eggs from the two living NWRs to create embryos that are 100 percent NWR.

The "much-hyped" plan for rhino in vitro fertilization is probably too late to save the northern white subspecies, according to Save the Rhino, a London-based group.

There is time pressure, they pointed out, with only two animals still around to socialise the babies in the mysterious ways of northern white rhinos. "Previous attempts to establish a managed breeding program for this sub-species failed".

Ultimately, proponents of the experiment are looking forward to using ART in saving all almost endangered species.

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.

It will then be planted into surrogate mothers (Southern White rhino), who are under heavy guard at the conservancy, the researchers said.

An global team of scientists have announced a breakthrough aimed at saving the northern white rhino from extinction.

The study's author, Thomas B. Hildebrandt noticed that the disappearance of the Northern white rhinos - the largest representatives of the family - not caused by evolutionary failure, and the fact that their skin is protected from bullets. So far, they have generated 12 rhino stem cell lines, Hildebrandt said.

While the scientists are confident about being able to harvest eggs from the two females, questions remain over the risk to the rare animals' health.

The northern white rhinoceros needs a miracle.

"You can't reach the ovaries by hand, so we developed a special device", Prof Hildebrandt explained to BBC News. The desperate logic of mixing subspecies and applying assisted reproduction technology is also being discussed regarding the Sumatran rhino. Biologically, the writing is on the wall for the sub-species. All conservation efforts to save this species have been foiled by human activities such as poaching, civil war and habitat loss. "We should come at it with everything we've got", Roth said.

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