• Rewinding extinction in the northern white rhinoceros: Genetically diverse induced pluripotent stem cell bank for genetic rescue

      Korody, Marisa L.; Ford, Sarah M.; Nguyen, Thomas D.; Pivaroff, Cullen G.; Valiente-Alandi, Iñigo; Peterson, Suzanne E.; Ryder, Oliver A.; Loring, Jeanne F. (2021)
      Extinction rates are rising, and current conservation technologies may not be adequate for reducing species losses. Future conservation efforts may be aided by the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from highly endangered species. Generation of a set of iPSCs from multiple members of a species can capture some of the dwindling genetic diversity of a disappearing species. We generated iPSCs from fibroblasts cryopreserved in the Frozen Zoo: nine genetically diverse individuals of the functionally extinct northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) and two from the closely related southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum). We used a non-integrating Sendai virus reprogramming method and developed analyses to confirm the cells’ pluripotency and differentiation potential. This work is the first step of a long-term interdisciplinary plan to apply assisted reproduction techniques to the conservation of this highly endangered species. Advances in iPSC differentiation may enable generation of gametes in vitro from deceased and non-reproductive individuals that could be used to repopulate the species.