Genetic engineering is being utilized to bring back rare animals from the dead. Endangered species can now be saved through this type of engineering. A collaborative effort between San Diego Zoo and The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California are taking frozen cells from a dead animal, reprogram them to become sperm and eggs, and then use these to bring endangered species back from the brink. That’s the aim of collaboration between the San Diego zoo and The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. The team’s long-term goal is to coax induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into becoming sperm and eggs. They will be making iPS cells from tissue held by San Diego zoo’s Frozen Zoo project – which has samples from some 8400 individuals representing more than 800 species. The sperm and eggs could be used in IVF treatments to add genetic diversity to captive breeding programs. Part of the process in creating iPS cells comes from using human genes to trick the animal’s genes into creating the cells. The process has not been entirely successful, and failed in an attempt to reprogram the genes of a northern white rhinoceros according to The Scripps Institute. While this is all well and good in trying to perpetuate species that are endangered, it does not negate the fact that these species natural habitats are under tremendous stress from humans. And perhaps if we spent more of our efforts in keeping a rich biodiversity, we would not have to play with genetic engineering. Keeping these species alive for captivity really isn’t the point in maintaining a healthy planet. This is more of a program for the San Diego Zoo to keep their main attractions from dying out, and curbing their revenue stream from tourists.
Photo: Endangered Drill Monkeys Photo Courtesy: San Diego Zoo