Tuesday, October 31, 2006

NORTHERN WHITE RHINOS - First step to test tube rhinos

PhysOrg.com has an interesting article on a new breakthrough by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin. They have succeeded in harvesting egg cells from a black rhino for the purpose of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

This is the team who were instrumental in getting Lulu pregnant. Lulu is the Northern White Rhino at Budapest Zoo, but very sadly Lulu had a miscarriage in 2005.
The collected ova were matured in a test tube and were successfully fertilised with rhino sperm but they did not continue to grow into embryos. Nevertheless, the result is a major breakthrough.
Supported by the veterinary surgeons Benn Bryant and Tim Portas from the Western Plains Zoo [Australia], the Berlin team took egg cells from a black rhino called “Muzi”. The animal had become infertile. Thomas Hildebrandt from the IZW says: “Our method can be applied to all rhino species and subspecies.” That is particularly interesting for those rhino cows that can no longer bear calves. If embryos were produced by IVF, surrogate mothers could deliver them. “Using IVF, we could increase the genetic diversity of rhino populations as well as help preserve the acutely threatened northern white rhino”, says [IZW-veterinarian Robert] Hermes.

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