Now, Malaysian scientists are hoping to use tissues and cells from Iman and other dead rhinos to bring the population back.
The project, carried out by a team at the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM), focuses on stem cell technology and in vitro fertilization. Dr. Muhammad Lokman Bin Md. The process, similar to cloning technology, aims to give birth to a new baby using cells from the old rhino, says Isa, one of the main researchers.
“Before the three rhinos (the last survivors in Malaysia) died, we got their cells, and the cells are still alive – that’s why I’m pretty confident,” said Tien. Lokman told CNN. “If you don̵7;t have any cells, or if we just have non-living tissue, we can’t do anything about it. We can just put it in books or museums. But now they are. We have a living organism that we can use. “
Here’s how the process works: In collaboration with the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA), the researchers collected cells and tissue from the last three Sumatran rhinos at BORA’s sanctuary – including Iman – before they die.
The cells come from the rhino’s heart, lungs, brain and kidneys. Crucially, the team gathered stem cells – essentially, the raw materials for creating cells with specialized functions.
Then there are two possible approaches. The first is to develop these stem cells into eggs and sperm, to create an embryo that will be implanted into a surrogate mother. The replacement would probably be another rhino, the Sumatran rhino from another country, or another species.
The second method is to take the egg of a substitute animal, remove the nucleus, and pair it with the somatocytes of the Sumatran rhino. This famous technique was used to clone Dolly sheep in 1996.
Lokman and his colleagues are trying both.
Because the stem cells reproduce on their own, the team has a decent stockpile and can try different methods to see which is most effective.
The team is still in the preliminary stages; Next, they need to analyze the cells to create a genome database, differentiate stem cells, and work with zoos and sanctuaries to find a suitable replacement woman. There are several ways that this can be wrong; fertilization can fail, and even if it doesn’t, pregnancy can be damaged after an embryo is implanted.
Race against extinction
Iman died at BORA’s Borneo Rhino Reserve last year, where she has been raised and cared for since she was arrested in 2014. She is 25 years old and has cancer, which starts to hurt her. pain from a tumor pressing on your bladder.
There are a number of factors that complicate these efforts; Susie Ellis, managing director, said: of the International Rhino Foundation, in a statement following Tam’s death.
With Iman’s death, the IRF declared the species extinct in the wilds of Malaysia; The remaining rhinos are scattered throughout Indonesia and Thailand.
The decline in population was initially due to poaching of their horns, which were coveted as ingredients in traditional Asian medicine. Later, it is exacerbated by divided habitats and human encroachment on the environment, preventing rhinos from assembling and reproducing.
There are currently only five species of rhino remaining worldwide and all of them are under threat. Some subspecies have disappeared; Western black rhino, native to West Africa, was declared extinct in 2013 due to poaching. The last male northern white rhino died last year, which prompted scientists to try in vitro fertilization with Fatu and Najin.