• A road map for 21st century genetic restoration: Gene pool enrichment of the black-footed ferret

      Wisely, S. M.; Ryder, Oliver A.; Santymire, R. M.; Engelhardt, J. F.; Novak, B. J. (2015)
      Interspecies somatic cell nuclear transfer (iSCNT) could benefit recovery programs of critically endangered species but must be weighed with the risks of failure. To weigh the risks and benefits, a decision-making process that evaluates progress is needed. Experiments that evaluate the efficiency and efficacy of blastocyst, fetal, and post-parturition development are necessary to determine the success or failure or species-specific iSCNT programs. Here, we use the black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) as a case study for evaluating this emerging biomedical technology as a tool for genetic restoration. The black-footed ferret has depleted genetic variation yet genome resource banks contain genetic material of individuals not currently represented in the extant lineage. Thus, genetic restoration of the species is in theory possible and could help reduce the persistent erosion of genetic diversity from drift. Extensive genetic, genomic, and reproductive science tools have previously been developed in black-footed ferrets and would aid in the process of developing an iSCNT protocol for this species. Nonetheless, developing reproductive cloning will require years of experiments and a coordinated effort among recovery partners. The information gained from a well-planned research effort with the goal of genetic restoration via reproductive cloning could establish a 21st century model for evaluating and implementing conservation breeding that would be applicable to other genetically impoverished species.