Stem Cells Generated From Endangered Species

in biology

Scripps scientists converted normal skin cells from two endangered species to induced pluripotent stem cells, creating  the first stem cells from endangered species.

According to Scripps scientists, such cells could eventually make it possible to improve reproduction and genetic diversity for some species, possibly saving them from extinction, or to bolster the health of endangered animals in captivity. For some highly endangered species there are too few reproductively capable animals to maintain adequate genetic diversity.

The two endangered species used were: a primate, the drill, Mandrillus leucophaeus and the nearly extinct northern white rhinoceros, Ceratotherium simum cottoni.

A description of the accomplishment appeared in an advance online edition of the journal Nature Methods on September 4, 2011.

Drill primate; Photo credit: San Diego Zoo

This seems to be the decade of stem cell research. This week published three reports (including this) on exciting research findings (stem cells to replace blood transfusion and stem cells for baldness) employing stem cells. But this one is unique, because the Scripps folks found a different niche for stem cell application.

Besides the possibility of using stem cells as the basis for diabetes or other treatments, there is great potential for new reproductive technologies as the stem cell research field advances. “The most important thing is to provide these stem cells as a resource for other people taking some of the next steps,” said Loring, one of the authors. Moving forward, Loring said the group is hoping to continue producing stem cells from other species to expand their fledgling stem cell “zoo.”

Source article: Induced pluripotent stem cells from highly endangered species. Nature Methods, Sep 2011 (DOI 10.1038/nmeth.1706).

Additional source: Scripps Research Institute

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