Northern White Rhino IVF Project
Wirsam Scientific, the sales partner of Olympus, has together with Eppendorf made a commitment to the Rhino Repro group. Wirsam and Eppendorf have donated a top of the range microscope and micromanipulation system for in vitro fertilization, to further their work on the critically endangered Northern White rhino. The main aim of this project is to prevent the extinction of the Northern White rhino, the most endangered rhino type at present. There are only 2 female Northern White rhinos known to people at present and they are not capable of natural reproduction.
The goal is to develop a robust protocol to optimize the procedure of harvesting and maturing oocytes, fertilization of oocytes followed by embryo transfer into a Southern White rhino. When the process is standardized on these close relatives of Northern White rhinos, the team will aim at harvesting oocytes from the last Northern White rhino females, mature the oocytes, fertilize them with Northern White rhino semen and generate embryos on a large scale. The embryos will be cryo-preserved or transferred directly into a Southern White rhino surrogate mother. At the same time, the development technique will assist with the breeding of Southern White rhino that has shown to have problems breeding in captivity. The possible use of Northern White rhino genetics on Southern White rhino is also under discussion to diversify the genetics of the Southern White rhino.
Dr. Morné de la Rey and a dedicated team have formed the Rhino Repro group which will cooperate with other institutions to achieve this task, in particular with Embryo Plus in South Africa, San Diego Zoo Global, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Kenya Wildlife Service in Kenya, as well as South African Rhino owners and other partners.
The Rhino Repro group works closely together and exchanges knowledge with colleagues from San Diego Zoo Global who are also focused on the challenging task of saving the Northern White rhino by using advanced cellular technologies. Dr. Oliver Rider of the San Diego Zoo is exploring options to produce gametes through the generation of so-called iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) from skin biopsies.
Genetic material from the Northern White rhinos has already been cryopreserved at various places around the world. All institutions have shown willingness to participate/cooperate should there be proven success with various ART’s in the Southern White rhino. During the project, more sets of samples will be collected for research and reproduction purposes.
The ICSI system donated by Wirsam Scientific; a sales partner of Olympus and Eppendorf comprises an Olympus IX73 inverted microscope with relief contrast optics and Eppendorf TransferMan 4r micromanipulators with CellTram injectors. This equipment will be used for various IVF procedures as part of the NWR project.
Wirsam Scientific, in keeping with the ethos of the company and a love of wildlife, is incredibly proud to be associated with this project.