Reuters - Video

Edition: U.S. | U.K. | IN | CN

Environment

Stem cell "zoo" could be last refuge for endangered species

Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 01:59

Sept. 15 - Stem cell technology is coming to the rescue of the world's endangered animals. Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are building what they call a ''zoo'' of animal stem cells which could be used to repopulate species on the verge of extinction. Ben Gruber reports.

▲ Hide Transcript

View Transcript

STORY: With only seven left in captivity and none believed living in the wild, the northern white rhino is on the brink of extinction. Scientists at the Scripps Institute and the San Diego Zoo are attempting to save the rhino's before it's too late. Researcher Inbar Ben-Nun is using a technique to reprogram the animal's skin cells to become stem cells. The technique has proven successful recently during experiments with human and mouse tissue. The research is potentially groundbreaking. If scientists can use those newly formed stem cells to create sperm and eggs, they will be able to re-introduce genetic diversity into the tiny population, and hopefully help the rhinos to reproduce. (SOUNDBITE) (English) INBAR FRIEDRICH BEN-NUN, RESEARCHER, THE SCRIPPS RESEARCH INSTITUTE, SAYING: "You make a pinch biopsy of skin, and you have skin cells in your hand, and by introducing four genes, only four genes, you can transform those skin cells into stem cells." Those four genes have been identified as those that make a stem cell active. And with stem cells, which are like building blocks that can be configured into any cell type, Dr Oliver Ryder, Director of Genetics at the San Diego Zoo, hopes to accomplish in the lab what has failed in the wild. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR OLIVER RYDER, DIRECTOR OF GENETICS AT THE SAN DIEGO ZOO INSTITUTE FOR CONSERVATION RESEARCH, SAYING: "In a great leap of saying what's the most, the greatest contribution this technology might make, it would be to prevent extinction by using stem cells to assist in rescuing the genetic variation and increasing the reproduction of a critically endangered species." The scientists say it will take years before this line of research can make a real impact on species conservation, but they are confident that in the future, it will do just that. Ben Gruber, Reuters.

Press CTRL+C (Windows), CMD+C (Mac), or long-press the URL below on your mobile device to copy the code

Stem cell "zoo" could be last refuge for endangered species

Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 01:59