Could stem cells rescue an endangered species?
Scientists have made reprogrammed stem cells from an endangered rhinoceros and a monkey. See link to nature News article below
Nature News: 4 September 2011
I have written about this before when similar ideas were touted by what seems to be the same team in the above story, though now they are hoping to achieve the same thing with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). Although I don’t question the motives and I am not suggesting we shouldn’t even consider doing the research, I am still not 100% convinced that this is the best use of scare dollars and resources available for conservation efforts. See my previous story for my thoughts behind the almost heretical proposal of dooming species such as the white rhino with just a handful individual remaining to extinction and using the dollars that would have been spent on what could be a futile attempt to save it, to spend on 10 species you know are reasonably confident you can save.
It is akin to getting the US president to cut all funds to saving the bald-headed eagle to instead save 10 species of snail, but there is solid science and methodology to this madness. As with a lot of our communication in this area we a bad at communicating risk and uncertainty.
Image: Cells from the northern white rhino Fatu (left) have been converted into stem cells and put into storage.M. Cizek/AFP/Getty Images